Liverpool gave one of Europe's finest sides an examination they will not forget in a hurry, but their Champions League future hangs by a thread after securing a 2-1 win against Juventus.
Two magnificent goals from Sami Hyypia and Luis Garcia gave Liverpool command in a first half in which they ran Juve ragged with a ferocious, high-tempo performance.
Rarely have the Italian giants been subjected to such a hounding, in fact they had conceded only two goals in the tournament before this emotional quarter-final first leg showdown at Anfield.
Before the game the thoughts were all about the Heysel disaster 20 years ago when these two sides last met in competitive action.
By half-time Anfield was relishing an outstanding, if unexpected performance from their heroes.
But Juventus were never likely to go down without a fight and their second half display of control, skill, constant movement and possession gave Liverpool an insight into what they will face in next week's return in Turin.
Fabio Cannavaro scored a deserved goal and somehow Liverpool clung onto their lead.
Whether they can do the same in Turin for the return remains unlikely on this evidence.
Rafael Benitez again opted not to risk Jerzy Dudek's hamstring injury and gave youngster Scott Carson his European debut in goal, Sami Hyypia returning to defence while the Liverpool manager opted for a two-man strike force with French Under-21 star Anthony Le Tallec also in the starting line-up alongside Milan Baros.
And Liverpool's response to confronting the star-studded Italians, who had veteran playmaker Pavel Nedved back following a head injury, was to go for the throat from the start.
Gerrard was in the thick of it, one thunderous tackle by the Liverpool skipper early on that stunned Emerson, set the standard.
His prompting got Steve Finnan in on the right, but his shot crashed into the side netting.
But from Liverpool's second corner, they stole into the lead.
Gerrard's ball soared in from the right, Luis Garcia flicked it on and Hyypia arrived on the far post to volley superbly inside the post leaving Gianluigi Buffon, arguably the world's best 'keeper, utterly stranded.
The ease with which the Finnish star struck his shot, and its' accuracy, is not what is usually expected from a defender, and he sat on the pitch a little bemused with his arms outstretched to celebrate his second goal of the season.
Liverpool had surprised the Italians with their pace and strength in these opening stages, but still the Serie A giants looked awesome in possession and moved the ball around smoothly, searching for the gap to punish their hosts.
But amazingly Liverpool went two ahead on 25 minutes, Anfield now in near hysteria.
Igor Biscan played the ball down the right, Le Tallec flicked it on and Luis Garcia surged onto the ball 25 yards out and hit a sensational dipping volley over the despairing arms of Buffon.
It was the new Spanish international's 10th goal of the season and fourth in Europe, underlining Benitez's view that he has become critical to Liverpool's balance in attack.
Juve almost hit straight back from the restart when Nedved set up Zlatan Ibrahimovic for a 20-yard shot that cannoned back off Carson's right-hand post.
And the Italians were straight back at Liverpool, and Alessandro Del Piero was played in only for Carson to make an outstanding save to his left.
Del Piero then had a header ruled out for offside, although TV replays showed it should have counted. Nothing, clearly, could be taken for granted at this stage.
Juventus sent on Gianluca Pessotto for Manuele Blasi at the break, with the intent of curtailing Gerrard's surging runs, and it worked.
Liverpool initially maintained their tempo of the first period, but they could not do it forever and Juventus were clearly intent on a more physical approach.
Juventus stepped up their search for a lifeline by taking off Del Piero and sending on David Trezeguet on the hour, with an increasing number of shots reaching Carson and greater midfield possession than they had managed at any stage previously.
And the goal the Italians had been threatening arrived on 63 minutes when Cannavaro appeared at the far post to meet a Zambrotta cross and head powerfully down and inside Carson's left-hand post with the young 'keeper looking at fault.
Liverpool then took off Baros and sent on Antonio Nunez, pushing Luis Garcia forward. Certainly something was needed to wrestle back control of the match from an increasingly confident Juve.
But it now seemed a question of whether Liverpool could hang onto their goal advantage.
Vladimir Smicer replaced the limping Le Tallec, Liverpool now under almost constant pressure as the Italians surged forward with clever inter-passing and movement.
Paolo Montero came on for the injured Zebina with 10 minutes left, and despite decent attempts to lift the siege by Nunez and Gerrard, Juventus were in command, had most of the possession and were searching desperately for the equaliser.
It did not come, but Liverpool must fear for their future in this competition next week in Turin.