Brendan Rodgers believes the Liverpool revival has gained impetus after his side came from behind to beat Tottenham and claim the first notable Premier League scalp of his Anfield reign.

Liverpool ended Spurs' 12-match unbeaten run courtesy of a late Steven Gerrard penalty, leaving the visiting manager, André Villas-Boas, to bemoan the defensive lapses that turned a comfortable 2-1 Tottenham lead into a 3-2 defeat. For Rodgers, however, a result that took Liverpool above Everton into sixth place marked his first hat-trick of league wins as the club's manager and a first victory over a team in the Champions League places. He insisted it could propel Liverpool onwards for the run-in.

The Liverpool manager said: "It is a big win. It is a big game when you are playing against an opponent that has been challenging for the Champions League for the last three or four years. It's a few years since Liverpool have beaten Tottenham. This is another marker in terms of our growth."

Rodgers' team are seven points behind fourth-placed Chelsea with nine matches remaining. "We're on a great run and we knew this would be a severe test of our qualities and our character.

"They're a team on great form and have been together for a few years. For us to get the three points was fantastic and I'm delighted for the players because they've worked ever so hard.

"It's not important that we're sixth. It's just important that we continue to move – it was always going to be difficult early on. But you could see the mentality today. This was a real test and I think we had to show different characteristics to what we have in the last few weeks. We've been comfortable in a lot of games and been able to control them. But against a top side we were able to come through. We had to make some changes and once we did that we were good value."

Tottenham were deservedly leading through a Jan Vertonghen double when Kyle Walker played a calamitous back-pass that Hugo Lloris failed to intercept to allow Stewart Downing to score. Jermain Defoe then compounded the visitors' errors with a poor touch to Luis Suárez ahead of the defining penalty, given for a foul on the Uruguayan by Benoît Assou-Ekotto.

Villas-Boas, who had no complaints with the penalty award from the referee, Michael Oliver, said: "A couple of mistakes cost us in the end but you can't be too negative after what we have done so far. Hopefully this is a reminder for us and we can go on another 12-game unbeaten run.

"The chance to go 3-1 from Sigurdsson [who hit a post] was a big, big chance, probably the moment of the game. We did ever so well to come back into the game and played well, managed to create good opportunities and it is a shame we could not control the game in the manner we should and win.

"Sometimes it happens. The boys did well. Apart from a couple of mistakes there were good performances from everybody. At half-time we were inspired and were pushing to get the win. We will reflect on the things we did but we are confident we can put our strengths back together and go on another run."

Rodgers has stopped discussing Liverpool's European qualification prospects in recent weeks. "I'm not thinking of Europe," he claimed. "We know where we want to be and that's challenging at the top end. We'll recover now then focus in on Saturday. We are just collecting points and we'll see where it takes us."

The Liverpool manager claimed Gareth Bale should not have been on the pitch when he created Vertonghen's equaliser on the stroke of half-time. He explained: "We're disappointed with the two goals we conceded, particularly the first one because the referee allowed Gareth Bale to come on to the pitch when he was off.

"Normally the player can only come on when the ball is on the other side, but he actually came on when the ball was on that side. He ended up being the spare man, got the cross in and got the goal. The second one was harsh too. If you give that as a free-kick you give about 200 per game."