Jay Spearing was sent off as 10-man Liverpool went down to a 1-0 defeat at Fulham on Monday night.
Kenny Dalglish's side created some good openings throughout an entertaining encounter at Craven Cottage but were undone by Clint Dempsey's close-range winner five minutes from time.
The game turned on an unfortunate incident on 72 minutes when Spearing was unlucky to receive a straight red card for a foul on Mousa Dembele.
The result means Liverpool are now seventh in the table, five points adrift of fourth-placed Chelsea.
The Reds had gone into the clash in buoyant mood following last week's superb Carling Cup triumph at Stamford Bridge.
Inevitably, Dalglish brought Luis Suarez back into his line-up, while Spearing replaced the injured Lucas Leiva in the engine room for what was his first Barclays Premier League start of the campaign. However, last season's hat-trick hero Maxi Rodriguez had to settle for a place on the bench.
It was all set up for the visitors to reproduce a similar showing to the one that saw them prevail 5-2 at the Cottage on their last visit, but they could and possibly should have found themselves trailing inside six minutes.
Bryan Ruiz split the visiting defence with a well-weighted through ball that sent Dembele in on goal, but Pepe Reina did brilliantly to block his first time effort.
Liverpool responded and after Charlie Adam saw his left-foot volley deflected to safety, Suarez carved out a chance for Carroll that the big No.9 could only sting the palms of Mark Schwarzer with.
The Reds were producing some neat approach play in the opening exchanges and another passage of intricate possession ended with a low shot from Adam that Schwarzer did well to keep out.
The Cottagers had barely had a look in since their initial opening but they gave a reminder of their threat on 16 minutes when Dembele forced Reina into a magnificent save on the stretch before the Spaniard was again called into action, beating down Dempsey's ambitious volley.
There was certainly enough action at both ends to warm the supporters who had braved the December chill and the travelling Kop thought they had a goal to celebrate just shy of the half hour mark when Jordan Henderson's driving run ended with a curling shot that bounced back off the far post.
Next, a surging dribble down the left by Suarez saw the Uruguayan cut the ball back to Carroll whose goalbound strike ricocheted to safety.
At the other end Reina was again in the thick of things on 37 minutes when Dempsey hit a swerving effort from distance that he could only parry to his left while the USA star was afforded too much space to fizz wide just seconds later.
The Reds stepped it up in the second period and after Daniel Agger saw a 30 yarder deflect behind the Fulham goal, Jose Enrique was unlucky not to net his first goal in red when Schwarzer just about kept out his follow-up from a half-cleared corner.
It was a good spell of pressure from the away side and Martin Skrtel was given the freedom of the far post just moments later but his thumping attempt was blocked by a well-placed Fulham body.
The hosts had barely had time to catch their breath but almost broke the deadlock themselves on 58 minutes when Bobby Zamora saw his 20 yard shot brilliantly thwarted by Agger.
Liverpool retaliated and a fantastic counter saw Adam rampage all of 40 yards before being brought down on the edge of the area. Craig Bellamy stepped up and thundered a drive into the wall. From the resulting corner Agger rose well but guided his header two yards wide.
Next, it was Bellamy again who got a sight of goal but he dragged his low effort just off target.
It was looking like being one of those nights for Liverpool and that feeling increased further when Suarez was incorrectly flagged offside after brilliantly clipping the ball over Schwarzer and firing in following Enrique's inventive pass.
The Reds continued to pour forward but the complexion of the match was altered on 72 minutes when Spearing was giving his marching orders for a late tackle on Dembele.
Dalglish responded with a double substitution that saw Carroll and Bellamy replaced by Stewart Downing and Dirk Kuyt.
Both Downing and Dempsey struck the bar at either end late on before Dempsey tapped home to win it after Reina failed to hold Danny Murphy's speculative shot.