Adam Lallana scored twice as Liverpool ended a year that promised so much with a resounding victory over Swansea at Anfield.
Alberto Moreno’s first home goal separated the sides at the break, before Lallana took centre stage, scoring twice either side of Gylfi Sigurdsson briefly giving the visitors hope.
A stylish performance from Brendan Rodgers’ side, who have risen to eighth in the Premier League, was capped by an own goal from Jonjo Shelvey on his return to Merseyside.
Liverpool, 11 points worse off than at the corresponding stage last season, were quick to regain possession in the early skirmishes, with the deep lying Emre Can snapping into challenges, and setting the same tempo which took them to within a game of the title this year.
Jordan Henderson’s first corner found Martin Skrtel, but after he had risen above Federico Fernandez, the Slovakian could only plant his header straight at Lukasz Fabianski.
The hosts will look back on the past 12 months with a sense of regression, but they slowly began to assert themselves on this fixture, and after Raheem Sterling’s volley from Moreno’s cross was beaten away by Fabianski, Lallana skied the rebound when well-set.
Liverpool, who beat Swansea in a Capital One Cup tie back in October courtesy of two goals in the last five minutes, were rarely threatened by their Welsh counterparts in the opening half hour.
Gary Monk’s side arrived on Merseyside having secured back-to-back victories for the first time since August, but they were forced into a glut of misplaced passes by their fired-up opponents, restricting opportunities to test the beleaguered Simon Mignolet.
Rodgers’ team deserved the lead and it was through a summer signing that they duly went in front in the 33rd minute.
Moreno, playing on the left of a four-man midfield, began and finished the move involving Lallana, half-volleying Henderson’s early low cross into the net via the legs of Fabianski.
Shelvey, keen to build on his record of scoring on both his appearances against his old club last season, had been warned by Monk about his discipline last week, but the 22-year-old may face retrospective action after Andre Marriner failed to see his swinging elbow land shortly before half-time.
Philippe Coutinho, the vibrant star performer of the opening 45 minutes, fizzed a swerving shot that stung the hands of Fabianski, but Liverpool went into the interval with only a slender advantage.
Goalkeeping howlers have become a feature of Liverpool’s matches this season, but five minutes into the second period, they were the beneficiaries of such an individual error.
Receiving Ashley Williams’ back pass after 51 minutes, Fabianski tried to be too precise with his clearance, which ricocheted off the advancing Lallana and looped underneath the crossbar much to the midfielder’s delight.
The misfortune sparked Swansea into life, and within a minute, they were back to within a goal of restoring parity. Wayne Routledge’s deep cross towards Wilfired Bony forced Mamadou Sakho to direct his header only into the path of Sigurdsson who couldn’t miss from close range.
A cagey and studious first-half was by now a distant memory, as Bony nearly equalized from the re-start, only for Sterling to rattle the post following another exquisite cross from Henderson.
But the home side were not to be kept at bay for long. Lallana ran onto Coutinho’s delightful backheel to round two Swansea defenders before drilling his left-foot shot beyond Fabianski to restore Liverpool’s two-goal cushion on the hour-mark.
By now, the Reds were rampant, and intent on improving their goal difference that would simultaneously take them above their opponents in the league. Their fourth would again arrive through slightly fortuitous circumstances with 20 minutes remaining, and Lallana again played a crucial role.
Shelvey was more concerned with getting into conversation with the former Southampton man than marking him effectively at a corner, and he barely got off the ground, inadvertently heading Henderson’s near-post centre over Fabianksi and in off the far post.
After Lallana was given a standing ovation as he departed the stage with 15 minutes remaining, Sterling was withdrawn for more precautionary reasons.
The makeshift striker was having one of his quieter evenings before he clashed with Fernandez after the ball had gone out of play, flailing a hand into the face of the Argentina defender. A less lenient referee may have interpreted the incident more dimly.
Substitute Bafetimbi Gomis nearly brought a degree of respectability back to the scoreline for Swansea, his right-foot shot from the edge of the box bouncing back off the crossbar.
There was still time for Mario Balotelli to be denied a first Liverpool league goal by Fabianksi, either side of Routledge and another Gomis shot both being steered off target, but this was a positive step in rebuilding the crumbled walls of Fortress Anfield.
Liverpool will enter 2015 having lost only one of their last ten games in all competitions. It’s a platform to build on for Rodgers, whose 3-4-3 system has rebooted his side’s quest to replicate last season’s feat of securing Champions League qualification.