A stunning volleyed injury time leveller from Phil Jagielka earned Everton a point in the 223rd Merseyside derby.
Everton trailed to a 64th minute Steven Gerrard free-kick before the skipper’s brilliant 30-yard-drive secured a point - just as it seemed time was running out for the boys in blue.
The home side had enjoyed the bulk of the chances with Tim Howard producing several good first-half saves.
The Blues’ best moments had been an early penalty shout and a couple of long range efforts until the skipper’s late intervention.
Earlier there had been bad news when Kevin Mirallas was stretchered off after pulling up holding his hamstring.
The game had barely kicked off when a lunging challenge from Gareth Barry on Adam Lallana earned the first yellow card.
Everton’s tactics saw Romelu Lukaku deployed wide on the right, a position from which he surged into the box and had an early penalty shout declined by ref Martin Atkinson. Replays showed that Reds left-back Alberto Moreno was pulling the striker’s arm.
And then Liverpool had successive penalty claims for handball turned down eight minutes in as the atmosphere ratcheted up another notch.
Seconds later Barry was on a last warning after he fouled Balotelli having been robbed by the Italian when trying to play out of defence.
The extrovert frontman tested Howard with a bending effort from the resultant free-kick, with a Lallana header from the subsequent corner requiring another excellent diving stop from the American.
Everton worked hard on retaining possession and gradually achieved a foothold in the game, with Simon Mignolet pressed into his first action by a Lukaku shot from the edge of the box on 21 minutes.
Next Leighton Baines got to the byline but couldn’t pick out a Blue shirt with his centre.
At the other end, Jordan Henderson’s stinging shot was fisted away by Howard.
Then, on the half hour mark, came a blow for Everton when Mirallas pulled up while galloping down the left. Seeing him stretchered off with an apparent hamstring injury was painful for the nearby Evertonians. Aiden McGeady replaced the Belgian.
At the end of the half Howard was required again to deny Raheem Sterling after Barry had given the ball away cheaply in midfield.
More soft Liverpool penalty claims at the start of the second half but neither side was able to quickly carve out a decent sight of goal until Naismith fired a decent effort on goal just after the hour mark.
Then the deadlock was broken. Baines fouled Balotelli on the edge of the box and Gerrard - anonymous up to that point - curled home.
Lukaku couldn’t crane his neck to connect to a cross for what would have been an immediate equaliser.
As the game exploded into life, Balotelli hit the bar from five yards from Sterling’s cross.
Roberto Martinez handed Tyias Browning a senior debut to remember by bringing him on for the last 18 minutes in place of Hibbert.
The Goodison chief’s final change saw Samuel Eto’o introduced and the Cameroonian immediately sent in a speculative long range drive.
And so it came down to a late push in added time. McGeady recycled an over-hit cross and returned to to the box where Dejan Lovren nodded it to apparent safety.
But no. It fell perfectly for the England international who met it as it bounced and unleashed a searing drive into the roof of the net to spark wild scenes among the travelling Toffees.