Liverpool booked a sixth round home clash with Stoke City as they ran riot against Championship side Brighton.
But the Reds were given more than a helping hand with the visitors scoring a hat-trick of own goals, two of which came from midfielder Liam Bridcutt.
After the controversy which surrounded last week’s non-handshake at Old Trafford, Luis Suarez kept his place in the Liverpool side, lining up alongside Andy Carroll and Steven Gerrard from the start for the first time. Jamie Carragher was also given a rare start, in place of the injured Daniel Agger.
Backed by 6,000 travelling fans, Gus Poyet’s men, who lie two points off the Championship play-offs, were hoping to avenge a 2-1 defeat against the Reds in the Carling Cup earlier this season. But, within five minutes, they found themselves behind.
England captain-in-waiting Steven Gerrard fired in a corner kick, from which defender Martin Skrtel did well to find space before flicking a header past Brighton keeper Peter Brezovan.
The home side continued to dominate the early exchanges, forcing a number of corners, from each of which Carroll appeared to be man-handled by marker Adam El-Abd, although referee Andre Marriner didn’t seem to notice.
On 17 minutes though, the Seagulls shocked the Anfield crowd when they drew level. When Jordan Henderson was penalised for a foul 25 yards, a neatly worked free-kick saw winger Kazenga Lua-Lua, brother of former Newcastle United star Lomana, power a low shot past Pepe Reina into the Kop net.
When Brighton reached the FA Cup final in 1983, arguably their finest hour, their passage to the final saw victory at Anfield, when Jimmy Case gave the South Coast side a 2-1 victory. If Lua-Lua’s goals had raised thoughts of a repeat, their hopes were dashed a minute before half-time.
The Reds had already gone close to regaining their lead through a Charlie Adam piledriver and a Carroll header, before they regained the lead from another corner. Charlie Adam swung in a corner from which Brezovan flapped. After Suarez’ shot rebounded into the air, Brighton striker Sam Vokes attempted to clear Glen Johnson’s goalbound header off the line, but instead hit Bridcutt and the ball rebounded into the net.
Twelve minutes into the second-half, Liverpool made the game safe. Stewart Downing did well down the left flank, before cutting the ball back for Carroll to sweep home first time with his left foot. In recent weeks, the £35m striker has started to repay some of his huge transfer fee, and his sixth goal of the season here was another sign that he is finally heading on the right track.
On 71 minutes, Reds skipper Gerrard took advantage of slack defending to force Brezovan into a save. As the ball broke free, the Reds midfielder managed to reach the ball before it went behind, When he knocked the ball across the face of the goal, the unfortunate Bridcutt was on hand to again divert the ball into his own net.
Three minutes later, it was 5-1 thanks to yet another own goal. When Brezovan tipped a Suarez cross into the air, there seemed little danger as the ball dropped to centre-half Lewis Dunk. But rather than clear first time, Dunk controlled the ball on his chest, then took a heavy touch on his knee which saw the ball cross the goalline before he could clear.
With the tie all but over, Liverpool were afforded the luxury of making a triple substitution, with Gerrard amongst the players given a rest. It didn’t take long for one of the changes to make an impact as Dirk Kuyt won a penalty when he was upended by Liverpool supporter Craig Noone.
As Kuyt sought the ball to take the spot-kick, Dalglish instructed that Suarez should take the kick, in an attempt to boost the Uruguayan’s confidence following recent controversies. The Liverpool number Seven subsequently put the ball on the spot, but his tame shot was well turned away by Brezovan.
Kuyt then headed against the bar, before Suarez did get his goal with five minutes to go. A neat move down the left saw Jose Enrique cross to the back post, from which Carroll rose highest to head back across goal to Suarez who nodded in from less than a yard out.
So far this season, especially at home, Liverpool have been accused of not scoring enough goals, so the manner of this result will have pleased Dalglish. The Reds visit Wembley for the Carling Cup final next Sunday and with a FA Cup quarter-final tie at home to Stoke City now booked, you would not bet against Dalglish’s men returning to the National Stadium for the FA Cup semi-finals.
Liverpool: Reina; Johnson, Carragher, Skrtel, Enrique; Henderson (Kuyt 76), Gerrard (Shelvey 76), Adam, Downing (Maxi 76); Suarez, Carroll
Subs not used: Doni, Coates, Kelly, Spearing
Goals: Skrtel (5), Bridcutt (45 og, 71 og), Carroll (57), Dunk (74 og), Suarez (85)
Brighton: Brezovan; Calderon, Greer, Dunk, El-Abd (Vicente 69); Bridcutt, Navarro; Buckley (Noone 46), Barnes, Lua-Lua; Vokes (Mackail-Smith 69)
Subs not used: Ankergren, Vincelot, Harley, Agdestein
Goal: Lua-Lua (17)
Referee: Mr Andre Marriner
Yellow Cards: Navarro
Man Of The Match: Andy Carroll (Liverpool) – Slowly starting to show the form he displayed at Newcastle. Led the line well, scored with a fine finish and also set-up a goal for Luis Suarez.