Liverpool moved to the Premier League summit after a draw with West Ham – but they failed to produce a glittering advert for their title credentials on a night of frustration at Anfield.
Rafael Benitez’s side needed only a point to edge ahead of Chelsea at the top of the table after the Londoners’ home defeat against Arsenal.
It was duly achieved, but in unimpressive fashion in the face of a resilient defensive display from Gianfranco Zola’s side.
Liverpool applied all the early pressure, with James Collins clearing off the line from Albert Riera early on and Carlton Cole doing the same from Sami Hyypia.
Craig Bellamy almost shocked Liverpool when he struck the post from long-range before the interval, but it needed Robert Green’s magnificent save from Yossi Benayoun to keep West Ham on level terms after the break.
West Ham have still not won at Anfield for 45 years, but boss Zola will take great heart from a point built on sound defensive organisation.
Liverpool have the consolation of heading the Premier League pace-setters after another below-par performance, but they know they must produce better to maintain their position.
They predictably exerted all the early pressure and twice had penalty claims turned down as they appealed for handball against Herita Ilunga.
Collins came to West Ham’s rescue in the 13th minute, clearing off the line from Riera after keeper Green punched away a cross from Steven Gerrard.
And Hyypia should have given Liverpool the lead three minutes later, heading Gerrard’s corner wastefully over the top when unmarked.
Cole then repeated Collins’ defensive heroics when he cleared off the line from another Hyypia header after Durk Kuyt had turned on another Gerrard corner.
Liverpool continued to exert total control, and Gerrard shot into the side-netting after evading the attentions of Cole and Scott Parker.
West Ham had shown little ambition, but they broke the shackles to almost stun Liverpool nine minutes before the break when Anfield old boy Bellamy unleashed a 25-yard shot that hit the inside of the post with keeper Pepe Reina well beaten.
Liverpool had run out of steam as the half went on, with Matthew Upson prominent as West Ham’s rearguard action gathered confidence.
But they created one more chance just before the interval when Green was forced to dive to clutch Kuyt’s low header, although Upson appeared to be pushed as they challenged for Xabi Alonso’s corner.
Green produced a stunning save to deny former West Ham star Benayoun after 55 minutes, diving high to his right to turn over a powerful rising drive after Collins diverted Gerrard’s cross into the Israel international’s path.
Robbie Keane had endured another night of frustration, and he once again suffered the indignity of being substituted when he was replaced by youngster David Ngog with 25 minutes left.
West Ham almost broke the deadlock seconds later when Bellamy’s corner was met at the near post by Cole, who could only direct his header wide.
Liverpool mounted a typical late surge, but Green was once again defiant as he saved from Kuyt, while substitute Ryan Babel was just off target from long range.
The final whistle was met with a chorus of jeers, evidence that while Liverpool may have gone top of the league, the mood at Anfield is one of disappointment.
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Hyypia, Dossena, Benayoun, Gerrard, Alonso, Riera (Babel 78), Kuyt, Keane (Ngog 66).
Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Agger, Mascherano, Leiva Lucas, Insua.
West Ham: Green, Neill, Collins, Upson, Ilunga, Faubert (Boa Morte 86), Parker, Mullins, Behrami, Bellamy, Cole.
Subs Not Used: Noble, Lastuvka, Tristan, Davenport, Collison, Di Michele.
Ref: Peter Walton (Northamptonshire).