Liverpool continue to make life hard for themselves, but also remain joint top of the Premier League and unbeaten, having come from behind twice to defeat Wigan 3-2 at Anfield.
In a match similar to their last league outing when Benitez’s side came from 2 down to win 3-2 at Man City, Wigan twice went ahead through Amir Kaki. Dirk Kuyt had levelled first before Albert Riera scored his first goal for the club to make it 2-2.
And Kuyt added his second five minutes from time to give Benitez his first league win over a Steve Bruce side since arriving in England four years ago.
Wigan had winger Antonio Valencia sent off for 2 bookable offences and from there Liverpool took full advantage with Benitez going for the win by throwing on El Zhar and Benayoun to replace Dossena and Arbeloa.
BBC Sport Report
Dirk Kuyt’s scissor-kick five minutes from time gave Liverpool all three points against 10-man Wigan in a pulsating game at Anfield.
Amr Zaki gave the visitors the lead after a mistake from Daniel Agger, but Kuyt fired Liverpool level.
On the stroke of half-time Zaki scored a spectacular overhead-kick to restore Wigan’s lead, before Antonio Valencia was sent-off for two bookable offences.
The home side hit back through Albert Riera, before Kuyt’s late winner.
The result is harsh on a Wigan side who, until Valencia’s sending off, looked good value for at least a point.
Wigan played with great confidence and, with the inspirational Zaki up front, they always looked as though they would cause Liverpool problems.
Even without the injured Emile Heskey, missing with a back injury, Liverpool struggled to cope with Wigan’s movement, pace and greater desire.
In contrast Liverpool, missing striker Fernando Torres, appeared disjointed and failed to put any meaningful attacks together.
Olivier Kapo, playing in a front three alongside Zaki and Daniel de Ridder, was the first to test Pepe Reina as his low left-foot shot was turned away by the Liverpool goalkeeper.
Robbie Keane curled wide as Liverpool started to feel their way into the game, but a minute later Zaki gave his side the lead after a horrendous error by Agger.
The Danish defender received the ball from Reina on the edge of his own area, but he was far too casual in possession and the Egyptian striker was on hand to rob the ball before coolly slotting it home.
However, Agger made amends 10 minutes later as he drove forward from defence, exchanged passes with Andrea Dossena and cut the ball back for Kuyt to fire home.
Suddenly the confidence returned to Liverpool’s play and Kuyt nearly grabbed a second as he unleashed a rasping shot from 20 yards that Kirkland somehow managed to tip onto the crossbar.
But they were stung on the stroke of half-time as Zaki met Antonio Valencia’s cross with a brilliant scissor-kick that gave Reina no chance.
After the break Liverpool started to turn the screw and Lee Cattermole was on hand to clear Daniel Agger’s header back across goal with Robbie Keane lurking at the far post.
Kuyt was then denied again by Kirkland from six yards as the home side struggled to break Wigan’s resistance.
However, when Valencia was given his marching orders for two bookable offences, the game swung in Liverpool’s favour.
The Ecuador international was shown a yellow card for failing to retreat 10 yards as Gerrard lined up a free-kick and just a minute later he was on his way down the tunnel for a reckless tackle on Alonso.
Liverpool immediately looked to make their man advantage count and Alonso saw his shot from 25 yards deflected wide by Titus Bramble, before Riera drew them level with a right-footed shot from 20 yards.
It was the Spaniards first goal in a Liverpool shirt, but Liverpool were not done yet.
They sensed victory as Wigan began to tire and Kuyt sealed the win with his fourth goal in three games.
He met Jermaine Pennant’s pin-point cross with a flying volley that hit the ground before flying over the despairing dive of Kirkland.
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa (Benayoun 79), Carragher, Agger, Dossena (El Zhar 78), Pennant, Alonso, Gerrard, Riera, Kuyt, Keane (Hyypia 94)
Subs not used: Cavalieri, Ngog, Lucas, Insua
Goals: Kuyt 37, 80, Riera 75
Wigan: Kirkland, Melchiot, Scharner, Bramble, Figueroa, Valencia, Cattermole, Palacios (Koumas 91), Kapo (Brown 82), De Ridder (Kilbane 79), Zaki.
Subs not used: Pollitt, Taylor, Boyce, Kamara
Booked: Valencia, Sent off: Valencia 75
Goals: Zaki 29, 45
Referee: Alan Wiley
Possesion: 64% – 36%