Benitez, who received a hero’s welcome as the manager who won the Champions League from 3-0 down in 2005, left Anfield with warm applause after his new team bounced back from 2-0 down.
Goals from Papisse Cisse and Jack Colback earned Newcastle’s first away point since their December victory at Tottenham, reinforcing Benitez’s belief that his 19th-placed team can still escape relegation.
He said: “We knew the first half was not the best and we needed to react, so I told them we had nothing to lose, we had to fight and show character. They had a fantastic reaction.
“Liverpool were playing well, it was difficult to stop them, but we showed character and passion.”
Jurgen Klopp’s team, chasing a fifth successive victory, led through Daniel Sturridge and Adam Lallana inside half an hour but have now dropped 17 points from winning positions.