Liverpool started brightly at Anfield and were looking dangerous every time they attacked, but fell behind in the 21st minute.
Chelsea would likely have had another goal if Mason Mount passed rather than deciding to shoot from an acute angle – and Liverpool capitalised on that escape in a dramatic end to the half.
James swung over a corner and Chelsea’s Kai Havertz all too easily found space to send a fine looping header beyond Alisson and into the net in front of the Kop.
A corner from returning Robertson caused havoc, with Joel Matip seeing a header come back off the bar before James blocked Sadio Mane and substitute Diogo Jota on the line.
Liverpool screamed for a penalty and Anthony Taylor was advised by the video assistant referee to check the monitor. The referee saw a replay and pointed to the spot, as well as sending off James.
Chelsea players fumed before and after Mohamed Salah kept his composure to slam home the penalty to make it 1-1.
James may feel hard done by, but the FA rules state that denying a goal or an obvious goalscoring opportunity with a handball is a red card – it does not matter whether the handball was accidental or not, or that the ball struck James’ knee first.