It may be a meaningless friendly but the FA Community Shield gave the new season exactly what it needed - proof that Chelsea are beatable.
Jose Mourinho's team cruised to the title last season and then bought two of the world's best players with Roman Abramovich's billions.
The rest of the league could be forgiven for thinking the new campaign will be a race for second place.
Peter Crouch changed all that with a back-post header 10 minutes from time at the Millennium Stadium.
Craig Bellamy supplied the cross from the left and Crouch was unmarked as he bagged the winner.
Mourinho's blue machine was stopped by the England striker who was briefly famous for his robotic dancing.
John Arne Riise has fired the Reds in front in the ninth minute but Andriy Shevchenko levelled, just before half-time.
Mourinho will shrug it off and dismiss the game as a warm-up for the real thing, which starts next weekend.
He will undoubtedly grumble again about the short pre-season, which has given him very little time to work with his players.
And he may throw in another moan about the international fixtures this week, which will disrupt his preparations.
Liverpool, in contrast, will put the Shield into the Anfield trophy cabinet and consider it a huge psychological boost to beat the champions on the eve of the new season.
There is, after all, serious needle between these two teams.
This was their eleventh meeting in little over two years and the games have been packed with controversy.
The animosity was evident when Frank Lampard's temper snapped in the first half and he booted Boudewijn Zenden from behind.
Lampard was lucky to escape with a booking from Martin Atkinson because, although Zenden had the ball, the Chelsea midfielder did not seem to be aiming for it.
Michael Ballack was also booked when he wiped out Mohamed Sissoko with an awful late tackle on the touchline.
Mourinho had chosen to start with what looked like his strongest available team, in the absence of Petr Cech, Joe Cole, Claude Makelele and William Gallas.
Ballack, however, hobbled off midway through the half, holding an ice-pack to his hip. Salomon Kalou came on.
Liverpool's competitive season is already under way. They beat Maccabi Haifa last week in a Champions League qualifier and Benitez rested some of his key players.
Steven Gerrard started on the bench, along with Xabi Alonso and new striker Bellamy.
Riise fired Liverpool ahead in the ninth minute. He picked up a clearance from a Chelsea corner and sprinted from box to box without meeting a challenge.
John Terry backed off and Riise unleashed a left-footer which dipped suddenly and beat Carlo Cudicini.
The Italian, in for the injured Cech, should have saved it and skipper Terry glared at his goalkeeper.
Riise sprinted away in delight. The goal was a reminder of his screamer against Chelsea in the Carling Cup final in 2005, which also put the Reds one-up.
Cudicini made up for his mistake in the 42nd minute when his acrobatics stopped his team going two goals behind.
Benitez must have wondered how the ball stayed out of the net when Mark Gonzalez slid a low cross in from the left but Luis Garcia and Crouch got in each other's way.
Garcia had the final touch but his gentle looping effort gave Cudicini the chance to recover and tip it over the bar.
Within a minute, the scores were level as Lampard's pass found Shevchenko breaking clear of the Liverpool back-four.
The Ukrainian showed the sort of finishing prowess you can buy for £30million.
He took the pass on his chest and coolly side-footed the ball past Jose Reina with his second touch. Up in the stands, Roman Abramovich punched the air in delight. His latest big-money investment certainly knows where the net is.
Reina made two sharp saves inside a minute, in the second half.
The Spaniard turned one over from Drogba and then sprang to his left to beat away a low header from Shevchenko.
After Liverpool's strong opening, Chelsea had started to dominate and Benitez responded by sending on Alonso and Gerrard.
Bellamy followed shortly after as the substitutes flooded on and disrupted the game's rhythm.
Alonso had been on less than a minute when he whacked Michael Essien on the ankle and was booked.
Liverpool remember Essien's nasty two-footed tackle on Didi Hamann in last season's Champions League.
Incidents like the Essien challenge on Hamann, together with snide comments from both managers, have turned this fixture the biggest grudge match in the Premiership.
These mutual feelings are unlikely to change if Liverpool develop into Chelsea's nearest title rivals this season.
Crouch's late goal gave Benitez another win over Mourinho and tightened his psychological hold.
He has beaten him in the Champions League, the FA Cup and the Community Shield. Now for the Premiership.
Paul Walker, PA
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