The Welsh winger scored at both ends as the home side often found themselves under the cosh only to hold on and end the Reds' eight-game unbeaten streak and leapfrog Everton
The winger set up Aaron Lennon for the first before doubling his side's lead with a free kick inside 16 minutes, only for England international's goal-line clearance to rebound off the Welshman's face to give the Reds hope with 20 minutes to play.
Mousa Dembele returned to the starting line-up for Spurs after recovering from a hip injury while Brendan Rodgers named an unchanged side to that which drew 0-0 with Swansea City, with Jose Enrique continuing on the left of a front three.
The hosts got off to the perfect start when Bale's jinking run into the area and drive across Pepe Reina was met by the unmarked Lennon to tap in at the far post with seven minutes on the clock.
The away side came back strong, though, and should have equalised soon after when Hugo Lloris rushed out to clear Steven Gerrard's through-ball, only for Kyle Walker to divert the ball into Jordan Henderson's path and, with the goal gaping, the midfielder sent his shot from 18 yards wide.
But Tottenham were rampant and soon doubled their lead when Bale fizzed a free kick up and over the wall which Reina seemingly failed to read as it nestled into the centre of the goal.
As the saying goes, "2-0 is the most dangerous lead in football", and the hosts seemed to either relax or start feeling the nerves of an apparently comfortable lead to allow Liverpool the chance to build momentum.
Lloris found himself all at sea for the second time in the game when Dembele's clumsy challenge on Gerrard again took the ball away from the shot-stopper to leave Luis Suarez with an open goal but the weak effort was punted off the line by the back-tracking Kyle Walker.
Liverpool started the second half as they finished the first by dominating possession, and again went close when sloppy marking from Michael Dawson allowed Enrique to find Henderson inside the area for a shot on goal.
Andre Villas-Boas was visibly agitated on the touchline with the away side dominating possession but Clint Dempsey nearly gave his side a reprieve when he pounced on a mix-up from Martin Skrtel to run through on goal with Defoe. However, the Spurs pair both shirked responsibility on the edge of the area to allow Glen Johnson to recover and clear.
The Reds finally clinched the lifeline that their play deserved with 20 minutes to play - though in fortuitous fashion when Lennon's goal-line clearance from a Liverpool corner was hit straight into Bale's face from a yard out and back into the net for an own goal.
Suarez thought that he had won his team a penalty at the death when William Gallas tangled with the striker inside the area, prompting screams from the away bench, but referee Phil Dowd quickly dismissed the Uruguayan's protests as Liverpool's eight-match unbeaten run came to an end.