Wolves were the better side at times and manager Mick McCarthy will surely point to the dismissal of Ward as the turning point.
Referee Andre Marriner showed the defender a second yellow card - but only after being surrounded by Liverpool players for incorrectly cautioning Christophe Berra.
McCarthy had clearly fancied his side's chances of causing an upset by fielding a full-strength team - a very different approach to Wolves' recent outing against Manchester United at Old Trafford.
But the decision to field an attacking 4-4-2 formation allowed Liverpool to take control of the game in the early stages.
Aquilani will improve - Benitez
The visitors were fortunate Glen Johnson scooped a shot wide after finding space down the right while Fernando Torres, showing no sign of his long-standing groin injury, then tested Marcus Hahnemann after wriggling free in the inside left channel.
Alberto Aquilani, finally making his first Premier League start, looked comfortable in possession but some ill-advised flicks in and around the box tested the patience of an increasingly nervous Anfield crowd.
And Wolves, inspired by their fine recent form in the league, pushed forward and began to create chances of their own.
Nenad Milijas forced Pepe Reina into action from a free-kick before Kevin Doyle put a sharp header wide from only three yards out.
The controversial sending off of Ward changed the game in the second half
And the hosts' promising start had well and truly faded by the time Kevin Foley failed to control in the box after being left completely unmarked as the tension and frustration around a freezing Anfield increased still further.
But Wolves' hopes were dealt a blow when Ward was sent off early in the second half in chaotic circumstances.
The left-back, already cautioned for a tug on Benayoun, was eventually shown a second yellow card for a foul on Lucas - but not before referee Marriner incorrectly penalised Berra for the offence.
Liverpool's players crowded round the official to highlight his error and after consultation with his assistant, Marriner altered his decision and sent Ward off.
Sending-off was harsh - McCarthy
The incident appeared to galvanise the Reds and they soon took the lead when Insua's teasing cross was met in dominant fashion by home captain Gerrard, leaving Hahnemann with no chance.
Any result still seemed possible as gaps appeared all over the field, however, until Benayoun made it 2-0 midway through the second half.
Another fine cross, this time from Fabio Aurelio, found its way to the Israeli and his shot took a cruel deflection off Karl Henry and looped into the net.
From that point on there was no way back for Wolves but McCarthy can take a raft of positives from another impressive display.
Liverpool fans will be thankful of the points but their side are still a shadow of the team that sat top of the Premier League on Boxing Day last season.
90:00+3:45 The assistant referee signals for offside against Daniel Pacheco. Marcus Hahnemann restarts play with the free kick.
90:00+3:39 Steven Gerrard sends in a cross, George Elokobi makes a clearance.
90:00+0:28 Corner taken by Leiva Lucas from the right by-line, Richard Stearman manages to make a clearance.
89:07 Dirk Kuyt sends in a cross, Marcus Hahnemann makes a comfortable save.
87:43 Substitution Jay Spearing on for Yossi Benayoun.
86:53 Dirk Kuyt concedes a free kick for a foul on Karl Henry. Marcus Hahnemann takes the free kick.
83:51 Substitution Alberto Aquilani leaves the field to be replaced by Daniel Pacheco.
81:58 The ball is crossed by Steven Gerrard, save made by Marcus Hahnemann.
81:21 Free kick awarded for a foul by Michael Mancienne on Yossi Benayoun. Jamie Carragher restarts play with the free kick.
77:16 A cross is delivered by Glen Johnson, Yossi Benayoun produces a header from inside the area that goes over the crossbar.
76:06 George Elokobi fouled by Yossi Benayoun, the ref awards a free kick. Marcus Hahnemann restarts play with the free kick.
75:11 Substitution (Liverpool) makes a substitution, with Dirk Kuyt coming on for Fabio Aurelio.
75:04 Matthew Jarvis crosses the ball.
72:44 Fernando Torres takes the chance to get an effort at goal. Save made by Marcus Hahnemann.
69:21 GOAL - Yossi Benayoun:Liverpool 2 - 0 Wolverhampton Yossi Benayoun finds the back of the net with a goal from deep inside the penalty box high into the middle of the goal. Liverpool
68:44 Fabio Aurelio sends in a cross, Jody Craddock makes a clearance.
67:35 Alberto Aquilani challenges Chris Iwelumo unfairly and gives away a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Michael Mancienne.
65:50 Substitution (Wolverhampton) makes a substitution, with Chris Iwelumo coming on for Sylvan Ebanks-Blake.
64:42 The ball is sent over by Emiliano Insua, George Elokobi makes a clearance.
62:57 Steven Gerrard takes a short corner.
61:12 Substitution Michael Mancienne comes on in place of Nenad Milijas.
61:12 Assist on the goal came from Emiliano Insua.
61:12 GOAL - Steven Gerrard:Liverpool 1 - 0 Wolverhampton Steven Gerrard scores a headed goal from close range. Liverpool 1-0 Wolverhampton.
59:47 Corner from the right by-line taken by Fabio Aurelio, save by Marcus Hahnemann.
59:42 Yossi Benayoun delivers the ball, blocked by George Elokobi.
57:28 Substitution George Elokobi comes on in place of Kevin Doyle.
55:30 Steven Gerrard produces a drilled right-footed shot from 18 yards. Christophe Berra gets a block in.
54:45 Glen Johnson delivers the ball, clearance made by Christophe Berra.
52:25 Free kick crossed right-footed by Steven Gerrard, clearance made by Karl Henry.
52:25 Sent off The referee shows Stephen Ward a red card.
51:20 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Leiva Lucas by Stephen Ward.
50:21 Outswinging corner taken right-footed by Steven Gerrard, free kick awarded for a foul by Yossi Benayoun on Karl Henry. Marcus
Hahnemann restarts play with the free kick.
50:03 Steven Gerrard has an effort at goal. Save made by Marcus Hahnemann.
48:18 The ball is delivered by Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, Headed effort from deep inside the area by Nenad Milijas misses to the left
of the goal.
47:24 The free kick is delivered left-footed by Fabio Aurelio from right wing, save by Marcus Hahnemann.
47:24 Booking Stephen Ward goes into the referee's book.
47:10 Stephen Ward concedes a free kick for a foul on Yossi Benayoun.
45:36 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Christophe Berra by Steven Gerrard. Marcus Hahnemann takes the direct free kick.
45:01 The second half kicks off.
45:00+1:12 The match has reached half-time.
45:00+0:40 Leiva Lucas gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Nenad Milijas. Direct free kick taken by Nenad Milijas.
44:10 Glen Johnson takes a shot from 18 yards. Marcus Hahnemann makes a fantastic save.
40:43 Corner from right by-line taken by Steven Gerrard.
40:32 Drilled left-footed shot by Leiva Lucas. Blocked by Christophe Berra.
38:50 Leiva Lucas takes a long range shot harmlessly clearing the crossbar.
38:19 Centre by Karl Henry.
36:45 Free kick awarded for a foul by Nenad Milijas on Alberto Aquilani. Alberto Aquilani takes the direct free kick.
35:08 Unfair challenge on Fernando Torres by Christophe Berra results in a free kick. Fabio Aurelio crosses the ball in from the
free kick, Marcus Hahnemann makes a comfortable save.
31:48 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Daniel Agger by Sylvan Ebanks-Blake. Jose Reina restarts play with the free kick.
30:42 Steven Gerrard gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Matthew Jarvis. Direct free kick taken by Marcus Hahnemann.
30:34 The ball is delivered by Glen Johnson, Stephen Ward manages to make a clearance.
30:01 Foul by Kevin Foley on Alberto Aquilani, free kick awarded. Emiliano Insua takes the free kick.
29:15 Fernando Torres is ruled offside. Marcus Hahnemann restarts play with the free kick.
28:19 Foul by Jody Craddock on Fabio Aurelio, free kick awarded. Emiliano Insua takes the direct free kick.
27:34 Leiva Lucas gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Stephen Ward. Direct free kick taken by Nenad Milijas.
26:43 Effort from the edge of the area by Fernando Torres goes wide of the left-hand post.
25:20 Nenad Milijas has an effort at goal from just outside the box which goes wide of the right-hand post.
23:22 Nenad Milijas takes the inswinging corner, Kevin Doyle produces a header from deep inside the six-yard box which goes wide
of the right-hand upright.
22:16 Daniel Agger concedes a free kick for a foul on Kevin Doyle. Shot on goal comes in from Nenad Milijas from the free kick,
save made by Jose Reina.
21:40 The assistant referee flags for offside against Fernando Torres. Jody Craddock restarts play with the free kick.
21:23 Sylvan Ebanks-Blake takes a shot from 12 yards. Jose Reina makes a comfortable save.
19:34 The ball is sent over by Yossi Benayoun, Christophe Berra makes a clearance.
18:08 Centre by Fernando Torres, comfortable save by Marcus Hahnemann.
17:42 A cross is delivered by Emiliano Insua, clearance made by Christophe Berra.
17:32 Fernando Torres sends in a cross, clearance made by Jody Craddock.
16:57 Richard Stearman crosses the ball, Nenad Milijas produces a left-footed shot from just outside the penalty box that goes wide
left of the target.
15:51 Inswinging corner taken left-footed by Fabio Aurelio.
15:43 The ball is swung over by Emiliano Insua, clearance made by Stephen Ward.
13:40 Fabio Aurelio crosses the ball, clearance made by Christophe Berra.
10:34 Kevin Doyle concedes a free kick for a foul on Alberto Aquilani. A cross is delivered by Fabio Aurelio, Headed effort on
goal by Fernando Torres from inside the penalty box misses to the right of the target.
8:23 Steven Gerrard sends in a cross.
7:17 Inswinging corner taken right-footed by Steven Gerrard from the left by-line to the near post, clearance made by Stephen Ward.
Correction - 7:06 Fernando Torres has an effort at goal. Marcus Hahnemann makes a save.
7:06 Shot from 12 yards by Fabio Aurelio. Marcus Hahnemann makes a save.
5:29 Steven Gerrard has a drilled shot. Marcus Hahnemann makes a comfortable save.
4:30 Centre by Glen Johnson.
2:16 The ball is delivered by Kevin Doyle, clearance made by Jamie Carragher.
0:12 Nenad Milijas challenges Fernando Torres unfairly and gives away a free kick. Fabio Aurelio produces a shot on goal direct
from the free kick, comfortable save by Marcus Hahnemann.
0:00 The referee gets the match started.
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