Juan Mata gave Benitez’s side a well-deserved lead but the home side roared back with former Chelsea striker Carlton Cole levelling just past the hour before substitutes Mohamed Diame and Modibo Maiga struck late on.
Champions Manchester City moved to top of the table, for a couple of hours at least, after Carlos Tevez earned them a 1-1 draw at home to Everton, although Manchester United can open up a three-point lead if they win at Reading in the late game.
European champions Chelsea remain in third spot with 26 points after West Bromwich Albion wasted the chance to move above them when they were beaten 1-0 at home by Stoke City.
Tottenham Hotspur moved above West Brom on goal difference into fourth place following a 3-0 victory at Fulham in which Jermain Defoe scored twice.
Arsenal were booed off the pitch at the Emirates as they slipped to 10th after a 2-0 home defeat by Michael Laudrup’s Swansea City for whom Michu scored two late goals to take his league tally for the season to 11.
Liverpool were 1-0 winners at home to Southampton and bottom club Queens Park Rangers drew 1-1 at home to Aston Villa as their search for a first league win of the season continues under new manager Harry Redknapp.