There will be a time, one can only assume, when a Premier League side finds a way to stop Liverpool, and as the mist came down in the Black Country it seemed that they might have met their match at last, but these are the days of wonder for the league leaders.
Had they left Molineux with a draw, against arguably their most challenging opponent in this season of seasons, they would have done so with a huge lead nonetheless at the top of the table and their 40 league game unbeaten sequence intact.
That might have been acceptable with Sadio Mane off injured, and Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Adama Traore so dominant on the right wing that only the inconvenience of running out of pitch threatened to stop him. Yet with six regulation minutes remaining, Jordan Henderson polished off one of the finest performances of his season with a throughball to Roberto Firmino that Liverpool’s centre-forward dispatched and suddenly it all felt very familiar.
This was their 14th consecutive league victory, a run that stretches all the way back to that single draw in late October, another win in a season of wins – 12 months in which winning can feel like an inevitability. Sixteen points clear again, can they go all the way to the title without a defeat? It seems improbable that with the resumption of their Champions League defence there will not be more injuries like Mane’s, a hamstring the severity of which has not yet been tested.
Watching the counter-attacking combinations of Raul Jimenez, Wolves’s goalscorer, and Traore, there might be others who spy a way to beat them. This was a night when Liverpool were not always at their best in the aspects of the game you might expect them to prevail, and yet prevail they did.
They say that the hallmark of champions is that they win when they play badly, but no great teams have truly bad performances – just those when fall below their high standards. There were times when Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold found themselves struggling against Traore and Pedro Neto respectively, and many moments when you wondered how Mohamed Salah’s team-mates put up with his compulsion to shoot instead of take a better option. Liverpool were made to look vulnerable at times but they never permitted those moments to last long.
Klopp said later that Wolves were different to any side he has faced in the Premier League this season and changed his formation to 4-4-2 when Liverpool were without the ball. It meant that there was a Premier League debut for Takumi Minamino, on for Mane in the first half, in which the new signing had to devote himself to positional discipline rather what Klopp described as the “between the lines” game to which he is better suited.
Without Mane on the pitch Wolves were emboldened and having allowed Henderson in to score an early header they got a better grip of the game after the break. Nuno Espirito Santo hinted, as much as he ever does when it comes to tactical adjustments, that he had pushed Traore to the right in the second half rather than being one half of a partnership with Jimenez. It was from there that the winger caused the most damage, crossing the ball that Jimenez headed with a flex of the neck past Alisson. The Liverpool goalkeeper was on exceptional form, saving from Jimenez and Traore in the second half when his side were under the greatest pressure.
Jimenez’s 20th goal of the season in all competitions was the first that Liverpool have conceded in 725 Premier League minutes, going all the way back to Richarlison’s for Everton, their second goal at Anfield on December 4. It helps Alisson that Joe Gomez in particular, and Virgil Van Dijk, were in front of him although they also struggled with Jimenez and Traore. Those two have combined for eight goals this league season, more than any other pair.
The goal headed in by Henderson came directly from Alexander-Arnold’s corner which was the 23rd assist of the season for the full-back. It had come after a debatable free-kick awarded by Michael Oliver, won by Salah, had been deflected wide and Alexander-Arnold trotted over to take the corner. None of the Wolves defence took charge of dealing with his ball in and even Henderson’s header was saveable for Rui Patricio on the line.
That goal set Wolves back, as well as a glaring miss from Matt Doherty. In the first half, there were moments when Klopp’s players demonstrated the breath-taking passing sequences that can unlock defences. There were sweeping balls from Alexander-Arnold from deep on the right to out on the left. But they did not take their first half chances, and Salah was the least composed.
By the end of the first half it was Minamino who did not quite have the seniority to demand the ball from Salah as he zagged in from the right wing, cutting across the face of the area until he had gone too wide to make the best of a shot. Before then Mane had walked off the pitch having decided he could play on no longer. It did not look like he was in obvious discomfort.
A different approach from Wolves in the second half - more of the ball and more chances. The goal was beautifully worked in the moments after Salah had struck yet another lame shot at Patricio and the away side were forced to reorganise quickly. They lost the ball in midfield and Jimenez turned it sharply to the right for the charging Traore to take it down the wing and cross. Jimenez arrived perfectly on cue, back arched, eyes wide open as he steered his header way out of the reach of Alisson.
Wolves could sense a famous win and the stadium responded with the kind of noise you rarely hear these days. There were chances before and after Firmino’s winner when substitute, Diogo Jota missed from close range. But first came that finish from Firmino after Salah had kept the ball alive, Henderson spotted the opportunity and once again Liverpool felt unstoppable.
Full time, Wolves 1-2 Liverpool
Heartbreak for Wolves, who came as close as anyone to inflicting Liverpool's first defeat of the season.
The hosts were undone by a late lapse of concentration but, even so, it was a quality performance which will have caused plenty of anxiety on Merseyside. Ultimately, though, Liverpool are 16 points clear at the top of the table because they win games like this one.
That was the chance for Wolves.
Jimenez flicks the ball up over Alexander-Arnold in the box before teeing up Jota a few yards out. Somehow, he manages to spoon his finish over the crossbar.
The goal has led to a couple of substitutions, Salah coming off for Divock Origi and Moutinho for Morgan Gibbs-White.
GOAL! Wolves 1-2 Liverpool
That is a lovely, lovely goal.
From a throw-in on the right, Salah ends up with the ball at his feet. Two impudent drag-backs later, Wolves are all over the place, Henderson threads through Firmino and he makes the net bulge. That could well be the winner.
Huge chance for Firmino, who rushes onto an improvised ball from Wijnaldum, jinks past Coady and lashes a low shot at goal.
Patricio saves with his feet. After all their good work this half, Wolves need to stay focused.
Gomez is adjudged to have fouled Jota to the left of the box.
Moutinho sends in a dangerous delivery, but Alisson tidies up.
Wolves make a change, Neto coming off for Diogo Jota.
Traore takes on Virgil van Dijk for pace but, despite having all the time in the world, he decides to have a go from distance and his effort trickles harmlessly wide.
Liverpool tear up the other end and win a corner, which Wolves clear straight back to Traore. Just as he starts to fire up the turbo boosters, Gomez comes across and snuffs out the danger.
Liverpool go close again as the two sides take turns to squander match-winning opportunities.
Salah rounds several defenders before lashing a shot past the post. Oxlade-Chamberlain was in acres of space and, as his number goes up on the sidelines, he looks absolutely furious.
Jimenez looks almost certain to make it 2-1 to Wolves, latching onto a through-ball from Traore to go one-on-one with Alisson.
As Liverpool fans shield their eyes, the keeper makes himself big and saves with his face. Their unbeaten record is currently swaying on its pedestal.
Traore forces Alisson into a save with a stinging shot and Liverpool's defence manage to scramble clear.
Oxlade-Chamberlain then puts Alisson under pressure with a loose back pass. The visitors are starting to look a little bit shaky.
Big, big let-off for Wolves.
Salah tees up Minamino on the edge of the box and his shot discombobulates Patricio. Despite the fact that the Wolves goalkeeper is off-centre and down on his knees, Roberto Firmino can only smash straight at him on the follow-up.
Traore zooms past Georginio Wijnaldum on the flank and almost picks out Jimenez again, but the cross isn't quite as accurate.
Andy Robertson is the next man to be flamed by Traore, bringing him down on the edge of the box for a yellow card. Joao Moutinho forces Alisson into a desperate punch with his delivery from the set piece. Liverpool are in danger here!
GOAL! Wolves 1-1 Liverpool
Wolves come right back at them, Pedro Neto forging a half chance for himself before Jimenez attempts an overhead kick which sees him flop like a fish to the turf.
Presented with a more realistic chance a few minutes later, Jimenez provides a far more elegant finish. Having opened up the right flank with a neat pass to Traore, a return ball into the box falls for Wolves' No 9 to head home.
Two big chances for Liverpool!
Salah deceives the entire Wolves defence and ghosts into the box, driving a fierce shot at goal which is pushed wide by Patricio. From the ensuing corner, Henderson gets his head on the ball once more but his dangerous flick-on is cleared.
Mane injury update
According to BT Sport's commentary team, Mane came off with "a precautionary hamstring issue". Nothing too serious, hopefully.
Teams back out
... which means it's time to settle down for the second half.
Half time stats
Liverpool have had 58 per cent possession so far, while they lead Wolves on passes by 302 to 216.
The visitors have been on top, then, but not entirely dominant. Given their respective approaches here, with Wolves attempting to hurt Liverpool on the counter, the hosts will not be unhappy with the pattern of play.
Half time, Wolves 0-1 Liverpool
So far, so predictable.
Wolves have given Liverpool plenty to think about but, as ever this season, Klopp's side are ahead and have played some fantastic football.
Salah has a moment of magic, slaloming through Wolves' back line and thundering down on goal.
Much to the relief of the home crowd, Doherty gets a crucial block in and Patricio gathers. The exhale all around Molineux is audible.
Jimenez latches onto a loose ball, cuts inside and gets a shot away, but it's deflected wide.
The Liverpool box is bombarded with dangerous crosses but their defence is equal to them, for now.
Alexander-Arnold switches play beautifully for the umpteenth time this evening, picking out Minamino on the opposite flank.
Liverpool recycle the ball and remain patient in the build-up. After a brief interlude in which Wolves threaten, Henderson almost sends Salah through the middle but his final ball is overhit ever so slightly.
After a sustained spell of Liverpool pressure, Neves carves out a chance for Jimenez with a neat ball into the box.
Jimenez cuts inside but, with a massed wall of red shirts in front of him, he attempts to find the corner and his shot trickles just wide.
Mane has a problem and signals to the bench that he needs to come off.
Takumi Minamino is the man to replace him. Let's see what Liverpool's £7.25m January signing can do.
33' - We're forced into a change, as Minamino replaces Mane.— Liverpool FC (@LFC) January 23, 2020
A patient passing move from Liverpool ends with Coady under pressure from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, but the Wolves man manages to usher the ball back to Rui Patricio.
Both teams are playing excellent football here, it has to be said. Liverpool's range of passing is outstanding but, whenever they are on the ball, Wolves are counter-attacking at breakneck speed.
Sadio Mane nicks the ball from Neves but appears to jar his opponent's knee in the process, with the Wolves midfielder collapsing in pain.
After a short break for treatment, Neves returns to the field of play. He looks okay to continue and, in fairness, we all needed a breather.
Another scramble in the Liverpool box forces a desperate intervention to stop Raul Jimenez from getting a shot away.
Liverpool bomb up the other end and, after a lovely ball from Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah ends up with the goal at his mercy. He overplays it a little, however, and allows Jonny and Romain Saiss to jointly block the shot.
Alisson has a dodgy moment, misjudging a high ball in the box and letting it bounce before gathering up at the second attempt.
They may be 1-0 behind, but Wolves are making life uncomfortable for Liverpool here.
Traore gives Alexander-Arnold the run-around on the wing, winning a corner after a lightning-fast change of pace.
The corner is played short to Ruben Neves, who swings a cross to Matt Doherty at the far post. Despite being completely unmarked, he guides his header wide.
GOAL! Wolves 0-1 Liverpool
Alexander-Arnold gets his 10th assist of the Premier League season, whipping a perfect delivery to Jordan Henderson who half heads, half shoulders the ball into the back of the net.
Now it's Liverpool's turn to threaten with a free kick.
Trent Alexander-Arnold's shot hits the wall and goes behind for a corner.
Joe Gomez tangles with Adama Traore before Jonny steals the ball and briefly threatens to bear down on goal.
Liverpool clear but only as far as Conor Coady, who is fouled to the left of the box. The ensuing free kick causes chaos in the area, but the visitors eventually scramble it away.
If Wolves go behind early on, here's a stat to keep Liverpool on their toes: Nuno Espirito Santo's side have earned 18 points from losing positions this season, seven more than any other team in the Premier League.
Wolves have also scored 68 per cent of their league goals in the second half since the start of last season, more than any other side in the top flight. It's not over until it's over at Molineux, clearly.
Liverpool team news
Wolves team news
Who can stop Klopp?
When it comes to describing Liverpool's momentum this season, it's hard to find the right metaphor.
Are they a steamroller? A herd of angry bulls? A raging torrent? A tornado tearing through a pastoral utopia and sending innocent cows flying through the air for miles around?
Are they a monster truck being fired out of a giant cannon? An intercontinental ballistic missile hurtling towards its unsuspecting target? Nothing quite does it justice but, safe to say, they have flattened everything they have come into contact with in recent months.
These are the facts: with 21 wins and one draw to their name Liverpool have made the best start ever in the English top flight and, since this time last year, have dropped only 10 points at a rate of 0.27 a game. Even the most optimistic Wolves fan would have to admit that, when they face the league leaders at Molineux this evening, they only have an outside chance.
Whisper it, but there has already been talk of Liverpool going the season unbeaten. This usually precedes a team losing their unbeaten record almost immediately in a phenomenon known as the 'Wenger Curse' but, of all the teams tipped to match Arsenal's Invincibles, Jurgen Klopp's side seem like one of the more plausible contenders.
Wolves tend to excel against the Premier League's best teams, however, and gave Liverpool a difficult game at Anfield in December. Though they lost 1-0, two contentious VAR calls were the difference between a battling defeat and a potential upset.
Where so many teams have been demolished by Liverpool this term, Wolves have shown themselves capable of putting up serious resistance. "Wolves are, not only this year, but last year, really difficult to play," Klopp said earlier this week.
"For us, there are solutions for that but not without working a lot. You cannot play on a 50 or 60 per cent basis against Wolves, then you have absolutely no chance."