When the whistle blew on Sunday to end a match that Liverpool had for the most part seemed unlikely to win yet which in the end saw them take all three points home from East London, it meant the club had edged into the top half of the table for the first time this season.
Tied with West Ham and Norwich for tenth with the campaign almost half way done might not be the kind of table position Liverpool fans have been used to in the past, but after a few lean years and in particular a horrendous end to the 2011-12 campaign that saw the club on relegation form for the entire second half of the season it's all about small steps forward and signs of improvement.
Back in the top half? Improvement. Two league wins on the bounce for the first time this calendar year? Improvement. The club's first come from behind victory since 2009? Improvement—albeit improvement that becomes at least vaguely depressing when one gives it overmuch thought.
Liverpool also found a way to win without striker Luis Suarez, who heading into the match had accounted for ten of the club's 19 goals in the league, and which was something captain Steven Gerrard was quick to point out.
"I’m really pleased with the lads. It was a fantastic performance," he told the Liverpool Echo. "I think before the game people were doubting us and thinking we would be a bit toothless in the final third without our top striker. But we’ve gone away from home, scored three goals and got the three points we came here for."
It may not have been the most pleasant match to watch for Liverpool fans, and for long stretches it might even have been the worst the club has played this season, but in the end it's the points that count and not the route taken to get them. Whether that result perhaps will give the players the confidence to push on up the table in a month that, on paper at least, seems set up for a series of positive results is another question, but it's one Gerrard believes they can deliver a positive answer to.
"We’re building slowly towards where we want to be," he added. "We’ve got two home games now against Aston Villa and Fulham. If we can capitalise and make it 12 points out of 12 then we will find ourselves a lot closer to fourth.
"It’s a platform to build on. We just have to focus on Villa now. Come the end of December we’re really looking to be close to that fourth position."
If Liverpool are to have any kind of hope of registering the two points per game average they would likely need to overcome a sluggish start and challenge for the top four, it will likely take at least a few stretches where they do considerably better than that. And with the likes of Arsenal and the Manchester clubs on the schedule early in the new year, December represents one of those runs.
It might still be an unlikely goal, and to take all twelve points against Aston Villa, Fulham, Stoke, and QPR over the next four games after taking all six against Southampton and West Ham to kick off December will likely mean having to play better than against either Southampton or West Ham. Still, it's a goal that today, following a rather unlikely win in London, seems far more realistic than it did last week—or even at the half on Sunday.