For Chelsea, the clocks went back more than an hour at Stamford Bridge yesterday, rewinding four years to a time when they last endured the ignominy of defeat at home.
For Liverpool, the clocks went back even further, reviving memories of the 1989-1990 season that climaxed in their last title.
This was only one small step in a marathon season, but it felt like a giant stride. Liverpool will believe in their Premier League mission, in their ability to find fruit on awkward soil.
Liverpool will know they can seize an early lead, as through the outstanding Xabi Alonso here, and possess the strength of mind and body to resist the opposition.
All sorts of numbers were mentioned here from the 86 games that Chelsea had been unbeaten in their King's Road fortress, dating back to an Arsenal victory on February 21 2004, to the 48 hours that had elapsed since Luiz Felipe Scolari suggested his team could match Arsenal's 'Invincibles' and go through the season undefeated. Names mattered more than numbers.
This was a momentous victory for Liverpool carved from the defiance of Jamie Carragher and Daniel Agger in thwarting Chelsea's attackers, to the relentless blocking and tackling of Javier Mascherano and Alonso in midfield and on to the dynamism of Steven Gerrard and Albert Riera in taking the game to Scolari's defence.
Liverpool were all heart, lungs and flying feet but the key factor was the mind of Benitez. The Spaniard's tactics were inspired, his game-plan squeezing the life out of Chelsea's feared spheres of influence.
Liverpool doubled up on Chelsea's usually buccaneering full-backs. Riera, a winger with work-rate, and Fabio Aurelio kept ushering Jose Bosingwa down cul de sacs. Over on the right, Dirk Kuyt and Alvaro Arbeloa stymied Ashley Cole.
In the centre, Liverpool's 4-2-3-1 formation allowed Gerrard licence to break forward in support of Robbie Keane, knowing that Alonso and Mascherano were on determined sentry duty. Gerrard was also perfectly placed to disrupt Chelsea's supply convoys masterminded by John Obi Mikel.
Missing Didier Drogba and Joe Cole, Chelsea struggled on the high and low road towards Pepe Reina's area. Robinho's hat-trick for Manchester City will have sent rueful thoughts spinning through Chelsea minds. But Liverpool could also mention absent friends, notably Fernando Torres.
For all the understandable focus on Harry Redknapp, this was comfortably the game of the day, of the season even.
For the hundreds of millions tuning in worldwide, Chelsea and Liverpool laid on a spectacle not persistently high on technical expression but always compelling.
The fixture has rarely lacked edge. On the terraces, familiar taunts were traded. Chelsea fans mused loudly that their guests had no jobs, prompting Liverpool supporters to retort that their hosts had no European Cups.
The competitive fray was swiftly seen on the field, Alonso flying into Frank Lampard with a force that spoke of past meetings as well as present collisions.
Despite a surface made treacherous by the rain, touches of class arose, a reverse pass from Lampard here, a clever flick from Gerrard there.
When Liverpool's captain won a throw-in on the right after 10 minutes, the stage was set for the game's decisive moment.
Arbeloa launched the ball into the box where John Terry was most alive to the danger, meeting the throw with a stretching header that clipped Bosingwa and fell invitingly to Alonso, lurking unmarked 20 yards out.
The Spaniard caught the ball well enough but its journey past Petr Cech required a deviation. Catching Bosingwa en route, Alonso's shot eluded the wrong-footed 'keeper.
As Liverpool fans celebrated, as their midfield dominated, Chelsea sought crumbs of comfort such as when Mikel pushed Gerrard into the crowd. Revenge was swift, the Englishman nutmegging the Nigerian.
Liverpool would not be bullied, particularly not Riera, blessed with a wonderful left foot and a hunger for life amidst the flying studs.
If Bosingwa suffers a recurring nightmare over the next month it will involve a deft Spaniard ghosting past him. Riera utterly bemused Bosingwa at one point, racing on and shooting just wide.
Liverpool remained in the ascendancy, Gerrard letting fly with a left-footed strike that Cech did brilliantly to push over. Riera then went round Bosingwa again. Once more, and he would have got to keep him.
Chelsea were stunned, urgently needing leadership. The captain, John Terry, began to bark orders, particularly at Florent Malouda. The usual creative forces, Deco and Lampard, started to show. Lampard briefly escaped the large shadow cast by Gerrard to unleash one of his long-range specials, deflected wide. Then came Deco, exploiting a lapse in control by Gerrard, storming forward but also firing off-target.
With Deco and Lampard more involved, Chelsea finished the first half strongly, knocking long and loud on Liverpool's back door but Carragher and Agger stood firm.
Some of Liverpool's tackling was immense, timed to perfection, so it was hugely frustrating when a magnificent challenge by Gerrard on Bosingwa drew a ludicrous caution from Webb.
England's top referee, the only official deemed good enough for consideration for the 2010 World Cup, misread Gerrard's intent and was deceived by Bosingwa's histrionics.
The full-back rolled around, knowing that Gerrard, having won the ball fairly, was free to race into untended space. Football must be never be allowed to descend into rollerball, but similarly it must never become non-contact. It's not ballet.
Chelsea lacked invention, and the closest they came to an equaliser was when Kuyt's penalty-box push on Ashley Cole went unpunished by Webb. Cole's habit of moaning again hardly endeared himself to the officials.
Occasionally booed by Liverpool fans, Cole also suffered the indignity of his huge poster being defaced outside the Bridge club shop. Liverpool almost killed off Chelsea midway through the half.
When Juliano Belletti kicked Riera in the face, Chelsea's six-man wall was left redundant as Alonso's free-kick sped past and thudded into the post with Cech stationary.
When Cole hooked a shot wide, smiles began taking shape on Liverpool faces.
At the final whistle, Sammy Lee, that symbol of passion for the red cause, punched the air, Liverpool's No 2 disappearing under a rare bear-hug from Benitez.
Unlike the clocks, Liverpool know they have to keep going forward, keeping their focus if they are to claim the championship again. (©Daily Telegraph, London)