Katie Zelem came off the bench to score with her first touch as Liverpool Ladies kept up their fight for the Women's Super League title with a dramatic 1-0 win over Notts County on Sunday.

With leaders Birmingham losing their lead at the top after Chelsea had beaten them 3-1 in the day's earlier kick-off, huge incentive was there for a victory to take Matt Beard's charges into second place.

County started proceedings second from bottom of the table, but their performance suggested that is a false position, and with manager Rick Passmoor constantly communicating from the sidelines, they made life extremely tough for Liverpool.

Natasha Dowie hit the post and Corina Schroder missed a glorious chance for the hosts, before an inspired substitution in the 73rd minute changed the game, with Zelem only on the field for a matter of seconds before she found the net.

Dowie did brilliantly to find Gemma Davison in space on the right and her perfect cross fell to Zelem, who fired home, prompting Beard to run down the touchline in sheer jubilation.

Liverpool Ladies had made a bright start at the Select Security Stadium in Widnes, and straight from the kick-off Kate Longhurst set off on a superb run that took her into the County penalty area, but despite having Schroder in acres of space in support to the left, the No.7 was caught in two minds and the ball was cleared.

The visitors responded well and enjoyed a sustained spell of pressure in the Liverpool half, with the pace and trickery of Jess Clarke proving tough for Becky Easton to handle.

Liverpool were guilty of giving the ball away cheaply and they were almost punished on 13 minutes when Clarke cut past Easton on the left and curled an effort just wide.

Play was then held up while Liverpool had two injury scares. Goalkeeper Libby Stout pulled up after taking a goal-kick, but was able to continue after treatment, while Easton limped off and had to be replaced by Amanda Da Costa.

On 25 minutes, Dowie, starved of any service up to this point, tried a speculative lob that landed a couple of yards wide of the post.

The Reds missed an absolute sitter on 32 minutes. Lucy Bronze undertook a superb run down the right and her perfect pull-back saw Schroder fire over the top of an open goal. It almost proved costly at the other end when Caitlin Friend broke clear, only to have her effort superbly kept out by Stout.

Beard's charges came close to taking the lead after 54 minutes when Dowie met a Fara Williams free-kick, but her header hit the post and then rolled to safety across the goalline.

Just past the hour mark, a superb pass from Bronze sent Davison clean through on goal, but County stopper Carly Telford was the hero for the away side as she made a great block and then a double save from Dowie's follow-up effort.

Super-sub Zelem then fired the crucial opening goal, before there was more drama four minutes later. Davison darted in behind and, after her first effort was saved, fell under a strong challenge. The referee pointed to the penalty spot and County were furious.

Manager Passmoor remonstrated with the fourth official while Dowie placed the ball on the spot, and after a second consultation with his assistant, the referee then changed his mind and signalled a drop ball much to the bemusement of Beard and his team.

County finished the tie with 10 players after Sophie Walton received a second booking, and the final whistle heralded a victory that sent the Reds into second place, two points behind leaders Chelsea.

However, third-place Birmingham are just a point behind Beard's side and have two games in hand, with Liverpool Ladies still to face Birmingham away, one of four Super League games remaining.

Liverpool Ladies: Libby Stout, Becky Easton (Amanda Da Costa), Corina Schroder, Nina Frausing Pedersen, Gemma Bonner, Fara Williams, Lucy Bronze, Katrin Omarsdottir, Kate Longhurst (Katie Zelem), Gemma Davison, Natasha Dowie. Unused substitutes: Danielle Gibbons, Katie Stewart, Ashley Dale, Claudia Walker, Ashley Hodson.

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