Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge were both on target as Liverpool dug deep to defeat Southampton 2-1 to begin the post-Luis Suarez era at Anfield on Sunday.
After blowing their Premier League title hopes in the final furlong last season, the home team hoped to start the new campaign in style.
But after Nathaniel Clyne cancelled out Sterling's 23rd-minute opener, the Saints were the dominant force for much of the second period.
With 11 minutes remaining, though, Sturridge was on hand to prod the ball past Southampton goalkeeper Fraser Forster to give the Reds a winning start to the new season.
Brendan Rodgers gave debuts to former Saints defender Dejan Lovren and full-back Javier Manquillo, who is on loan from Atletico Madrid. Ex-Southampton striker Rickie Lambert started on the bench for the home side.
Southampton fans serenading Rickie Lambert. Very civilised. Not so kind about Lovren though.— Paul Hayward (@_PaulHayward) August 17, 2014
Southampton fielded three newcomers in their team, with Forster, Dusan Tadic and Graziano Pelle all starting at Anfield.
An early Sturridge ball almost set Raheem Sterling free, but Jose Fonte shepherded the Liverpool forward away from goal.
Sturridge, who was making his 50th appearance for Liverpool, was just wide with an effort from distance in the seventh minute.
Liverpool fans were calling for a penalty when Maya Yoshida clipped Sturridge on the edge of the area, but referee Mark Clattenburg dismissed the appeals and the incident was outside of the box.
The Premier League runners-up were bossing possession, but there was little threat to Forster's goal, and Ronald Koeman's team also showed signs they were finding their feet.
Forster comfortably held a Sterling strike in his midriff in the 20th minute to enliven proceedings for the home crowd.
Simon Mignolet had the Anfield crowd fretting moments later when Glen Johnson's attempted clearance from a Southampton corner took the ball away from him. Luckily for the home side, the goalkeeper recovered to claim the ball.
Looking cool, Mignolet. No-one noticed— Ed Malyon (@eaamalyon) August 17, 2014
In the 23rd minute, though, Liverpool were ahead. A sublime, curling left-footed pass by Jordan Henderson from inside his own area allowed Sterling to chase into the area and place the ball wide of Forster and into the net.
Sterling. 1-0 Liverpool. Good finish but best part of goal was sweet, curling through ball from Jordan Henderson— Oliver Holt (@OllieHolt22) August 17, 2014
Manquillo became the first booking of the game in the 33rd minute for a foul on Tadic, and James Ward-Prowse's wickedly curling free-kick almost caught Mignolet by surprise before he palmed it away from under his crossbar.
In first-half injury-time, Mignolet produced a fine save to tip over Morgan Schneiderlin's curling strike from the edge of the area.
At the other end, Forster denied Sterling a second goal of the afternoon.
So far so good! Great finish by @sterling31 passing the ball in the side netting- love it!— Ian Rush MBE (@Ian_Rush9) August 17, 2014
Victor Wanyama set Ward-Prowse scampering down the right in the 54th minute, but the chance came to nothing.
However, two minutes later, the Saints were level. Clyne moved forward on the right side of the field before playing the ball to Tadic. The forward played a reverse pass back into the path of the defender, who cracked the ball into the roof of Mignolet's net.
That is sensational from Tadic and Clyne. Great goal.— Christopher Atkins (@ChrisAtkins_) August 17, 2014
In the 63rd minute, Tadic and Ward-Prowse produced great movement before laying the ball off to Steven Davis, who fired straight at Mignolet.
Southampton, though, had deserved their equaliser after running the game in the second half.
And Liverpool were fortunate to escape going behind when a scrambled clearance between Glen Johnson and Martin Skrtel denied Clyne inside the area.
Remind me again, which is the supposed title candidate? Liverpool or Southampton?— Robbie Blakeley (@rio_robbie) August 17, 2014
By now, Rodgers had brought Lucas off for Joe Allen, while Koeman, surprisingly, replaced Tadic with Shane Long in the 74th minute.
Two minutes later, Lambert was given a warm reception from both sets of supporters as he came on to replace Coutinho.
The striker almost found himself with a dream first touch as the ball fell to him in the Southampton area, but Clyne saw the danger and cleared.
In the 79th minute, though, Liverpool took the lead once more. Southampton failed to clear a cross fully, allowing Sterling to head towards goal, and Sturridge poked the ball home to make it 2-1.
If you allow the diminutive Raheem Sterling to win headers in your box, you don't deserve to get anything out of the game. #Southampton— Jimmy Conrad (@JimmyConrad) August 17, 2014
Goal!! Let's go Liverpool! #YNWA— Caroline Wozniacki (@CaroWozniacki) August 17, 2014
But Liverpool were grateful for Mignolet three minutes from time when he touched a close-range Schneiderlin drive on to the crossbar before Long headed the rebound wide.
The Reds held on for the full three points, but after a summer in which several star players left the club, Southampton's display was some proof that the new-look team are on the right track under Koeman.
Liverpool travel to Manchester City in an early test of their title credentials against the Premier League champions at the Etihad Stadium on Monday.
Southampton play host to West Bromwich Albion, who drew with Sunderland in their opening game, next Saturday.
Selected player ratings
Dejan Lovren: A
Former Southampton responded to the jeers of the visiting supporters with a superb display for Liverpool, especially in the first half where his passing completion rate was 100 per cent.
Raheem Sterling: A+
A persistent nuisance to the Southampton defence and took his goal well. His decision-making was awry once or twice, but that will improve as the season continues.
Fraser Forster: A-
Looked solid on his Southampton debut and could do little with the exquisite finish from Sterling for Liverpool's first-half opener.
Victor Wanyama: A
A fine display for the Southampton midfielder, who shackled Philippe Coutinho well, especially in the opening period.
People forget just how good Victor Wanyama is. Struggled last season with injuries, but is top drawer. Controls games.— Peter Hall (@PeteHall86) August 17, 2014
Daniel Sturridge: "Are we stronger this season? I think so. No disrespect to Luis. He's a great player & will be missed but we move on" #lfc— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) August 17, 2014
Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge: "They made us work very hard... The first game is always difficult. The pace was high." #LIVSOU— Premier League (@premierleague) August 17, 2014
Ok, hands up. First wrong prediction of season was Southampton going down. If they play anything like that, they'll b closer top than bottom— Oliver Holt (@OllieHolt22) August 17, 2014