Suarez put Liverpool ahead after 16 minutes of his 100th Premier League appearance with his first goal since January 28.

Southampton missed chances to level before Sterling, a 57th-minute substitute, scored with his first touch of the game and Gerrard then netted a penalty in injury time.

Liverpool had already known that third place was theirs for the taking with League Cup finalists Manchester City not involved in Premier League action.

The bonus was Arsenal's 1-0 defeat at Stoke City earlier in the day, which meant that second place was also up for grabs.

Southampton brought Dejan Lovren back in place of Maya Yoshida for his first game since the Croatian centre-back damaged ankle ligaments in a 2-2 draw at Sunderland in mid-January.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, meanwhile, began the match with Sterling on the bench and Joe Allen in the starting line-up.

Allen's inclusion appeared to be an attempt to help Liverpool keep the ball better than they had in last season's 3-1 defeat in this fixture and it was his long pass down the right that created the game's first chance.

The Welshman's ball sent Daniel Sturridge clear of the hosts' defenders and he needed only to find Suarez, unmarked to his left, for Liverpool to take the lead.

However, he under-hit his pass just enough to give Jose Fonte the chance to recover and slide the ball away for a corner.

The Saints claimed a penalty in vain when their captain Adam Lallana went down under a challenge from Jon Flanagan, the Liverpool right-back, and in the 16th minute they fell behind to Suarez's opportunistic goal.

- Slick move to impress Hodgson -

He began the move with a run infield from the left, but the chance seemed lost when Sturridge's attempt at a return pass was intercepted.

Unfortunately for the home side, the ball rebounded back into the path of Suarez, who calmly slotted the ball past goalkeeper Artur Boruc.

Southampton should have replied after 31 minutes with a slick move that would have impressed watching England manager Roy Hodgson.

Rickie Lambert chested a cross from Jay Rodriguez down for Lallana, but although he sidestepped a defender to give himself only Simon Mignolet to beat, he could only roll the ball against the post.

Morgan Schneiderlin then volleyed over the bar and Mignolet had to reach out to his right to parry a first-time shot by Rodriguez after Lambert had cleverly dummied Lallana's low cross from the left.

Southampton brought on crowd favourite Gaston Ramirez for Steven Davis at half-time to add an even greater element of unpredictability.

It was Ramirez's pass that put Rodriguez in possession on the left side of the penalty area with a chance to escape Flanagan and shoot, but Martin Skrtel blocked his attempt to curl the ball around Mignolet.

Liverpool were not making much impression as an attacking force as Southampton monopolised possession.

Rodgers needed to do something to interrupt the home side's flow and he decided to withdraw Philippe Coutinho in favour of Sterling, but even the Liverpool manager must have been amazed by the instant effect of his substitution.

Gerrard started the move, playing Suarez through a gap on the right flank, and when the Uruguayan crossed low, Sterling shot home first-time.

Gerrard coolly placed a penalty into the top-right corner in injury time to add further gloss to the scoreline after Fonte tripped Suarez.