It was a little uncomfortable towards the end, with Aston Villa having to resist a febrile retaliation from Liverpool, but they came through to register a second consecutive win and confirm their ordeal was over.
For Liverpool, it seems, only meaningless tedium lies ahead. The lingering fantasy of European football can now be dismissed; the summer break cannot come too soon.
Villa's goal, converted in the 33rd minute by Ian Taylor, was symptomatic of Liverpool's malaise. Their defending was appalling, the assist and final strike far from convincing.
Villa's diligence was rewarded when Alan Wright delivered a cross from the left and Julian Joachim's cross-shot veered towards Taylor, who somehow managed to divert it into the far bottom corner of the net.
Overall, Villa will draw considerable encouragement from their more cohesive play in the first half and their determination to retain what they had in the second. Liverpool could, and probably should, have equalised late in the day, but their finishing proved as feeble as their defending.
Robbie Fowler ought to have marked his final appearance of the season with his customary goal against Villa, yet headed wide with Mark Bosnich stranded.
Michael Owen's season was already over, and without the option provided by the England striker's quicksilver instincts, Liverpool's attacking play was woefully predictable and ultimately ineffectual.
The absence of Owen and Fowler may proffer overdue opportunity for Karlheinz Riedle, and even a belated run for the seemingly displaced Sean Dundee, but their remaining opponents will not be quaking at the prospect.
Fowler, who now serves a six-match suspension, did not have a goal to take away with him, but he did have a bit part in another touch of controversy.
Bosnich, not averse to the odd prank, appeared to engage the striker in light-hearted banter and wiggle his backside in the direction of Fowler as he prepared to take a free-kick.
Referee Jeff Winter intervened to book the Australian goalkeeper for time-wasting. The incident was patently a joke, but the official felt he could not ignore the seconds consumed in the process.
Goals: Taylor (33 mins).
Half-Time : 1-0 to Aston Villa.
Booked: Song (39 mins), Riedle (66).
Attendance : 44,306.
Team (4-4-2): James, Song (Dundee 86), Babb, Matteo, Bjornebye (Leonhardsen 46), McManaman, Redknapp, Ince, Carragher, Fowler, Riedle.
Substitutes (not used): Staunton, Ferri, Friedel.
Referee : J. Winter (Stockton-on-Tees).
League position: 9th (44 points after 32 matches).
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