Benayoun (left) and Kuyt made the game safe for Liverpool in the first half
By Piers Newbery
Liverpool maintained their title hopes with a comfortable win that keeps Newcastle deep in relegation trouble.
Yossi Benayoun got the first, despite a suspicion of offside, and headers from Dirk Kuyt and Lucas Leiva sealed it.
Newcastle boss Alan Shearer had left Michael Owen on the bench but it was slack defending that cost the visitors, who also had Joey Barton sent off.
Liverpool move within three points of leaders Manchester United, while Newcastle are three points from safety.
As widely predicted, Shearer took the brave step of naming Owen as a substitute and starting with Mark Viduka playing just ahead of Peter Lovenkrands and Obafemi Martins.
And while Liverpool had Steven Gerrard back in midfield for the first time in five matches, Newcastle must have been buoyed by the absence of Fernando Torres from the squad because of a hamstring injury.
Shearer furious with Barton indiscipline
In bright sunshine the visitors started well, with Viduka bringing in Martins and Lovenkrands on the flanks as Newcastle dominated possession.
The only early threat from Liverpool came after 14 minutes when Gerrard was pulled down outside the box by Fabricio Coloccini, who was lucky to escape a booking, but the England midfielder's free-kick was comfortably saved by Steve Harper.
Moments later, Gerrard made Harper work again with a stinging shot as the Newcastle defence backed away, and Kuyt then sent an inviting header wide from six yards as Liverpool upped the pressure.
In a frenetic period of play, Lovenkrands managed to get round Jose Reina in the Liverpool goal but the angle was too tight for the Dane to finish.
The breakthrough came on 22 minutes after Viduka gave the ball away with a curious header back towards his own goal.
Alan Smith then failed to control a weak Gerrard cross and Kuyt pounced to fire across goal, allowing Benayoun to scramble the ball over the line with his knee despite appeals for offside.
But Liverpool did not have to wait long for number two as Gerrard's corner on 28 minutes was met by a flying header from a totally unmarked Kuyt.
Liverpool assumed total control for the rest of the first half, with Xabi Alonso's long-range curling strike thumping the crossbar and his team-mates raining shots down on Harper's goal.
Shearer took off Lovenkrands at the break and replaced the forward with Argentine Jonas Gutierrez, rather than Owen, but the pattern of play did not alter.
Liverpool continued to move forward as Newcastle's defence looked shaky and Gerrard flashed a left-footed drive across the face of goal five minutes into the second half.
When Newcastle did manage to escape their own half they produced little, with Barton - back for the first time since January - and Damien Duff wasting good crossing opportunities.
The frustration got to the combative Smith, who was booked for a two-footed lunge on the hour, while Liverpool brought on Ryan Babel for Albert Riera as they camped in the visitors' half.
Alonso struck the bar for the second time in the match with another curling effort before Gerrard missed a golden opportunity in acres of space on the edge of the box, pulling his shot wide.
Benitez hails mentality of Liverpool squad
With the match increasingly resembling a training exercise for the home side, the intensity was raised dramatically when Barton slid in with both feet on Alonso as the Spaniard kept possession by the corner flag.
Referee Phil Dowd showed Barton a red card and the midfielder applauded in the direction of the Newcastle fans before walking past an unmoved Shearer on the touchline.
Meanwhile, Alonso was given an ovation from the Kop as he was stretchered off, and the applause continued for Owen, finally brought on with 10 minutes remaining.
The ex-Liverpool striker had no chance to make any impact, however, as his former side kept up the pressure, and unmarked substitute Lucas Leiva rounded off the easiest of wins by heading in Fabio Aurelio's free-kick three minutes from time.
There was still time for Gerrard to hit the bar but a late injury to Javier Mascherano, on the back of Alonso's earlier departure and the failure of Torres to make the squad, were the only negatives for title-chasing Liverpool.
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Agger, Aurelio, Alonso (Lucas 80), Mascherano (Ngog 89), Benayoun, Gerrard, Riera (Babel 63), Kuyt. Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Dossena, El Zhar, Skrtel.
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