Phil Jagielka rifled a shot into the top corner in injury time to earn Everton a dramatic 1-1 draw in the Merseyside derby at Anfield.
The hosts looked to have earned what would have been a deserved victory through Steven Gerrard's 65th-minute free-kick - a record ninth Barclays Premier League goal in the fixture for the Reds captain.
But, with 91 minutes on the clock, Jagielka, who had not scored for Everton since April 2013, let fly with an effort that gave Simon Mignolet no chance.
It still leaves Everton without a victory at Anfield since 1999, but rarely will a point ever have felt so sweet.
There was a surprise in the Everton team, with veteran full-back Tony Hibbert making his first league start since December 2012 in place of the injured Seamus Coleman.
Midfielder Muhamed Besic made his first league start for the visitors while Liverpool were again without influential striker Daniel Sturridge, who had targeted a return in this game from a thigh injury.
The Merseyside derby has not disappointed in recent years, although the red half of the city has had much the better of it.
As well as their long drought at Anfield, Everton were looking for a first derby win of any kind in four years.
Roberto Martinez was hoping the fact the game was being played exactly 15 years to the day since their last win at Anfield could be a good omen.
Both managers saw the match as a potential injection of life into their respective seasons, with Brendan Rodgers looking back to January, when a 4-0 win began a sequence of 37 points from a possible 39.
The game started at a frenetic pace and referee Martin Atkinson might have given two penalties and a red card in the opening 10 minutes.
Gareth Barry was booked for a foul on Adam Lallana inside the first minute and the Liverpool fans were baying for blood when he brought down Balotelli, but Atkinson kept his cards in his pocket this time.
Everton were the first to appeal for a spot-kick when Alberto Moreno appeared to bring down Romelu Lukaku but Atkinson said no, as he did four minutes later when Raheem Sterling's shot struck Barry's arm.
The hosts were attacking with verve and lots of pace, keen to get on top of Everton's leaky defence early on.
Following Barry's second foul, Balotelli drew Tim Howard into a first save with a deflected free-kick, and from the corner the American reacted brilliantly to keep out Lallana's header.
The boyhood Everton fan looked particularly bright, and the space down the flanks created by Everton's narrow midfield was giving full-backs Moreno and Javier Manquillo plenty of space to attack into.
Applying the finishing touch was the problem, though, and Balotelli, Liver bird sculpted into his hair, lacked the necessary conviction on a number of occasions as he sought his first Premier League goal for the Reds.
Everton's attacks were ponderous in comparison, although Leighton Baines did get away down the left and rolled the ball across goal, where it was scrambled clear by Dejan Lovren.
The visitors were dealt a blow on the half-hour mark when Kevin Mirallas appeared to pull a hamstring in full flight and was carried off to be replaced by Aiden McGeady.
The good news for Everton was the league's worst defence was holding up well and, when Liverpool did get through, Howard was on form, keeping out shots from Jordan Henderson and Sterling as the half drew to a close.
Liverpool were straight on the attack after the break and James McCarthy did superbly to foil Lazar Markovic as he looked to convert a Sterling through ball.
On the hour mark the Serbian was taken off to be replaced by Philippe Coutinho, and five minutes later Liverpool finally made the breakthrough.
Baines was judged to have brought down Balotelli 22 yards out and, although Howard got a hand to Gerrard's free-kick, he could not keep it out.
Two minutes later it should have been two as Sterling got away down the left before crossing for Balotelli, who hit the top of the bar from six yards.
Martinez responded by sending on 20-year-old Tyias Browning for his debut in place of Hibbert, while Samuel Eto'o came on for Besic in a final throw of the dice.
Everton piled on the pressure without really looking like finding a leveller until Jagielka's dramatic intervention, and Barry could even have won it with a late back-heel.
They say that in politics a week is a long time but they should try football. We need only ask Brendan Rodgers. It can strip you of certainties you have been building and massaging for years. It can invite you not only to think again but rush to the mirror to ask, 'Where did I go wrong?'