Jota, who joined Liverpool from Wolves in September, drilled a low first-time shot under Patricio to settle a tight contest.
It was a fine way for the Portugal forward to mark his first appearance back at his former employers and it sees the Reds climb to sixth, two points behind West Ham in fifth and five off Chelsea in fourth.
In a game of few clear-cut chances, Mohamed Salah saw a late effort ruled out for offside.
However, more distressing for the hosts was the sight of Patricio leaving the pitch on a stretcher after a lengthy delay following a collision with his captain Conor Coady, while trying to prevent the Egyptian from scoring.
The champions arrived at Molineux after an alarming run of six defeats in their past seven Premier League games.
But this result shows they cannot be discounted from being involved in the final reckoning when it comes to the Champions League places.
As the first half developed so too did Liverpool’s confidence.
And there were plenty of flickers of quality from the Reds, who so resoundingly won the reverse fixture 4-0 at Anfield in December.
Many of their best moments arrived courtesy of Sadio Mane’s intelligent movement, with the Senegal forward having three good opportunities to score before teeing up Jota’s opener.
That gave Jurgen Klopp’s side a welcome half-time lead for the first time in nine top-flight matches.
Yet while it was an improvement there were also plenty of signs that more must follow.
Fabinho and Thiago Alcantara’s partnership in midfield is a work in progress and despite all their neat interchanges there are still problems in attack which need to be resolved over the remaining weeks of the season.
That was underlined by Jota, Salah, Ozan Kabak and Mane all failing to add to their tally when presented with reasonable opportunities to make life more comfortable for the Reds.
It’s all about the result, Klopp told Sky Sports. A big fight. If we want three dirty points, I’m fine with that. We had very good moments where we should have done better. Defensively the whole game was really good.
Diogo Jota is the second player to score for and against Wolves in the Premier League after Stephen Hunt.