James Milner missed a penalty for the first time in his Liverpool career as the Reds surrendered ground in the race for Champions League qualification with a goalless draw against Southampton.
Jurgen Klopp's laboured side had looked set for a nerve-settling breakthrough when Jack Stephens handled in the box in the second half but Milner - who had scored all previous 12 attempts from the spot for his club - was this time denied by Fraser Forster (66).
Philippe Coutinho and substitute Daniel Sturridge had late chances against a Saints side that sat deep for long spells but though stalemate was a missed opportunity to consolidate a top-four spot, Arsenal's win over Manchester United at least puts Liverpool's fate back in their own hands.
The Merseysiders climb a point above Manchester City into third but they have played a game more than both Manchester sides and the Gunners - seven further back with two fixtures in hand - remain in a race that continues to intrigue.
Klopp, whose team have now failed to beat Southampton on four occasions this season and taken just two points from a possible nine at Anfield, had called for a special atmosphere, but though his side bossed possession in the Merseyside sunshine, a packed Saints midfield kept early openings to a premium.
Oriol Romeu's dithering was almost punished by Roberto Firmino 15 minutes in, Maya Yoshida blocking smartly, and Forster comfortably claimed the handful of high balls that came his way.
The visitors continued to soak up pressure as keep-ball came to nothing and Coutinho - in the starting XI after shrugging off a dead leg - dropped deeper in search of action.
Klopp caught the eye on the sidelines, hurling a water bottle to the turf in anger after Lucas Leiva was penalised for a tussle with Dusan Tadic, but the action on the pitch drew groans as Firmino lashed wide from range and Joel Matip punted forward to epitomise the dearth of ideas.
Southampton had not had a first-half shot on target but despite the Kop's roar as competition was renewed, the game's pattern failed to change and it was Claude Puel who made the first substitution, Nathan Redmond on for Sofiane Boufal.
Milner at left-back had looked the best outlet and he finally had a chance in familiar territory when Stephens raised an arm in the box after grappling with Lucas.
After a stale hour, the stage was set but the man who has kept his nerve from 12 yards seven times out of seven this season watched Forster drop to his right and push the ball away.
Klopp threw on Sturridge and Adam Lallana in a bid to maintain momentum, the former showing quick feet to craft a yard but prodding straight at the goalkeeper.
Simon Mignolet was lucky to escape punishment after appearing to handle just outside his area under pressure from Tadic, but though Forster came to Southampton's rescue when he tipped over a close-range header from Marko Grujic, time ticked away and the travelling Saints fans sang gleefully about another shut-out.
Liverpool: Mignolet (6), Clyne (6), Matip (6), Lovren (6), Milner (6), Can (5), Lucas (6), Wijnaldum (5), Firmino (6), Origi (5), Coutinho (6).
Subs used: Lallana (7), Sturridge (7), Grujic (6).
Southampton: Forster (8), Soares (6), Stephens (7), Yoshida (8), Bertrand (6), Tadic (6), Davis (7), Romeu (8), Ward-Prowse (6), Boufal (5), Gabbiadini (5).
Subs used: Long (6), Redmond (6).
Man of the match: Oriol Romeu