Gabriel Agbonlahor ended his run of 28 league games without a goal by scoring Aston Villa's winner at Sunderland.
The striker broke the stalemate when he stabbed in from close range after a knock-down from Christian Benteke.
Sunderland wanted a penalty when John O'Shea's glanced header struck the arm of Benteke but the referee waved away their appeals.
Louis Saha headed a late Sebastian Larsson cross agonisingly over for the home side but Villa held on.
A handful of Sunderland fans had begun to make their way out of the stadium after Saha's chance as they did not expect the top flight's lowest scoring side, with six goals, to equalise - and they were proved right.
The defeat ended a week in which the struggling Black Cats were knocked out of the Capital One Cup by Middlesbrough and they have now won only once in their last 17 games.
For Villa, on the other hand, this was a first league win in 14 away games since January and, after they reached the last eight of the Capital One Cup in midweek, their latest success will provide more encouragement for Paul Lambert.
Lambert's side gave him only his second Premier League win as Villa manager and helped him come out on top against his mentor, Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill, who managed him for five years at Celtic.
"Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert has put one over his mentor and Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill. That is the lift Aston Villa badly needed but O'Neill has been beaten by his former club and Sunderland have only one win in their last 17 matches."
Although there is plenty of respect between the pair, this was a game in which both men were desperate for three points.
Sunderland thought they had scored in the opening minutes when Steven Fletcher, who has scored five of his side's six league goals this season, dinked a Stephane Sessegnon pass over keeper Brad Guzan, only for the the effort to be correctly ruled out for offside.
Lambert's side produced some promising play and delivered a warning of the goal that was to come when Agbonlahor latched on to Benteke's knock-down before having a shot deflected high off Bardsley.
The home side's playmaking trio of Sebastian Larsson, Sessegnon and Adam Johnson have struggled to make their presence felt this season and they were again frustrated.
After Sunderland skipper Lee Cattermole curled a strike a yard wide, a Larsson shot went out for a throw-in, perfectly illustrating the problems O'Neill's side have had in front of goal.
The Black Cats stepped up the pace of their game after the break but it was Villa who took the lead.
A right-wing Matthew Lowton cross was nodded down by Benteke and Agbonlahor was on hand to divert the ball past keeper Simon Mignolet.
Sunderland had a shout for a penalty when Johnson's cross was flicked on by John O'Shea before coming off the arm of Benteke, although referee Mike Jones did not point to the spot.
Saha headed over for the home side, who left themselves vulnerable on the counter-attack as they pressed forward.
Villa's Andreas Weimann had a shot saved by Mignolet and, although Sunderland went close with another Cattermole shot and a Fraizer Campbell header, the home side's effort was to no avail.
- 22 Mignolet
- 02 Bardsley Booked (Campbell - 81' )
- 16 O'Shea
- 24 Cuellar
- 06 Cattermole
- 07 Larsson
- 08 Gardner (McClean - 67' )
- 14 Colback
- 21 Johnson
- 28 Sessegnon (Saha - 67' )
- 26 Fletcher Booked
- 20 Westwood
- 12 Kilgallon
- 03 Rose
- 15 Vaughan
- 23 McClean
- 09 Campbell
- 25 Saha
- 22 Guzan
- 04 Vlaar
- 06 Clark Booked
- 27 Bennett (Lichaj - 11' Booked )
- 34 Lowton
- 07 Ireland
- 15 Westwood
- 25 Bannan
- 11 Agbonlahor
- 20 Benteke Booked
- 26 Weimann (Holman - 85' )
- 01 Given
- 29 Stevens
- 30 Lichaj (Stevens - 71' )
- 12 Albrighton
- 16 Delph
- 14 Holman
- 21 Bowery
Live Text Commentary
Full Time The game is over, as the referee blows his whistle.90:00 +4:18
The ball is crossed by Fraizer Campbell, clearance by Ashley Westwood.90:00 +2:10
Fraizer Campbell produces a right-footed shot from the edge of the area and misses to the left of the goal.90:00 +1:36
A cross is delivered by James McClean, Ciaran Clark manages to make a clearance.90:00 +0:36
A cross is delivered by James McClean, Headed effort from deep inside the area by Fraizer Campbell misses to the left of the goal.89:49
James McClean fouled by Brett Holman, the ref awards a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Simon Mignolet.89:34
The ball is swung over by Louis Saha, Ciaran Clark manages to make a clearance.89:04
Ron Vlaar restarts play with the free kick.89:04 Booking
Booking Steven Fletcher goes into the referee's book.88:52
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Barry Bannan by Steven Fletcher.88:12
Louis Saha challenges Matthew Lowton unfairly and gives away a free kick. Free kick taken by Bradley Guzan.87:16
The referee blows for offside. Indirect free kick taken by Bradley Guzan.86:36
The ball is sent over by Adam Johnson, clearance by Matthew Lowton. Adam Johnson takes a short corner.85:47
Sebastian Larsson crosses the ball.85:27
Adam Johnson crosses the ball, clearance by Enda Stevens.83:57
Bradley Guzan takes the free kick.83:57 Substitution
Substitution Brett Holman on for Andreas Weimann.83:57
Steven Fletcher concedes a free kick for a foul on Bradley Guzan.83:38
Shot by Lee Cattermole. Save by Bradley Guzan.83:19
Short corner worked by Adam Johnson.
The ball is sent over by Fraizer Campbell.80:01
Direct free kick taken by Simon Mignolet.80:01 Substitution
Substitution Phil Bardsley leaves the field to be replaced by Fraizer Campbell.80:01 Booking
Booking Christian Benteke goes into the referee's book.79:54
Unfair challenge on John O'Shea by Christian Benteke results in a free kick.79:33
A cross is delivered by Adam Johnson, clearance made by Matthew Lowton.77:46
Drilled shot by Stephen Ireland. Gabriel Agbonlahor is caught offside. Simon Mignolet takes the indirect free kick.76:12
A cross is delivered by Louis Saha, Ron Vlaar manages to make a clearance.75:44
Drilled left-footed shot by Andreas Weimann. Simon Mignolet makes a save.71:43
Gabriel Agbonlahor gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Adam Johnson. Sebastian Larsson delivers the ball, Louis Saha has a headed effort from close range and clears the bar.70:47 Substitution
Substitution Eric Lichaj goes off and Enda Stevens comes on.68:42
Foul by Phil Bardsley on Gabriel Agbonlahor, free kick awarded. Barry Bannan takes the free kick.68:28
James McClean delivers the ball, save made by Bradley Guzan.68:04
Sebastian Larsson restarts play with the free kick.68:04 Booking
Booking Ciaran Clark goes into the referee's book.67:56
Unfair challenge on Steven Fletcher by Ciaran Clark results in a free kick.66:30 Substitution
Substitution Louis Saha replaces Stephane Sessegnon.66:30 Substitution
Substitution James McClean comes on in place of Craig Gardner.66:30
The ball is delivered by Adam Johnson, Effort from deep inside the area by Craig Gardner clears the bar.65:46
Unfair challenge on Adam Johnson by Eric Lichaj results in a free kick. Free kick taken by Phil Bardsley.64:36
Centre by Adam Johnson, clearance by Christian Benteke.62:42
Inswinging corner taken from the left by-line by Sebastian Larsson.62:30
Adam Johnson delivers the ball, clearance by Ron Vlaar.62:20
The ball is crossed by Sebastian Larsson.60:33
Eric Lichaj produces a cross.59:03
Free kick awarded for a foul by Andreas Weimann on Carlos Cuellar. Simon Mignolet restarts play with the free kick.58:21
Outswinging corner taken left-footed by Barry Bannan.56:14
The ball is delivered by Matthew Lowton.56:11
Assist by Christian Benteke.56:11 Goal scored
Goal! - Gabriel Agbonlahor - Sunderland 0 - 1 A Villa Gabriel Agbonlahor scores a goal from close in high into the middle of the goal. Sunderland 0-1 Aston Villa.54:44
Corner taken by Adam Johnson.53:05
Matthew Lowton sends in a cross, save made by Simon Mignolet.52:23
A cross is delivered by Phil Bardsley, save made by Bradley Guzan. Close range headed effort by Sebastian Larsson clears the crossbar.51:22
Phil Bardsley produces a cross, clearance by Ron Vlaar. Short corner taken by Stephane Sessegnon.50:23
A cross is delivered by Jack Colback, Eric Lichaj makes a clearance.49:52
Centre by Stephane Sessegnon, Ashley Westwood makes a clearance.48:12
Unfair challenge on Adam Johnson by Ciaran Clark results in a free kick. Adam Johnson takes the free kick.47:09
Shot from a long way out by Steven Fletcher goes wide of the left-hand post.46:29
Phil Bardsley fouled by Christian Benteke, the ref awards a free kick. Phil Bardsley takes the free kick.45:56
Stephen Ireland is caught offside. John O'Shea restarts play with the free kick.45:01
The referee blows his whistle to start the second half.45:00 +3:40 Half time
Half Time The half-time whistle blows.45:00 +2:47
Phil Bardsley takes the direct free kick.45:00 +2:47 Booking
Booking Eric Lichaj booked.45:00 +2:37
Foul by Gabriel Agbonlahor on Stephane Sessegnon, free kick awarded.45:00 +1:17
Stephane Sessegnon is ruled offside. Bradley Guzan restarts play with the free kick.45:00 +0:46
Christian Benteke concedes a free kick for a foul on John O'Shea. Direct free kick taken by Simon Mignolet.44:14
Barry Bannan gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Phil Bardsley. Sebastian Larsson crosses the ball from the free kick right-footed from right channel, Ciaran Clark makes a clearance.43:14
Sebastian Larsson has an effort at goal from just outside the box which goes wide of the right-hand post.42:28
Stephane Sessegnon challenges Ashley Westwood unfairly and gives away a free kick. Bradley Guzan takes the free kick.41:08
The ball is delivered by Andreas Weimann, Adam Johnson manages to make a clearance.39:52
The ball is swung over by Matthew Lowton.37:48
Shot from 18 yards from Andreas Weimann. Save made by Simon Mignolet.36:45
Free kick awarded for a foul by Eric Lichaj on Steven Fletcher. Phil Bardsley takes the free kick.36:22
Stephen Ireland delivers the ball, clearance by John O'Shea.35:14
Centre by Adam Johnson, clearance by Ashley Westwood.33:58
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Stephane Sessegnon by Stephen Ireland. Carlos Cuellar takes the free kick.32:51
Barry Bannan crosses the ball from the free kick left-footed from left wing, clearance made by John O'Shea.32:51 Booking
Booking Phil Bardsley receives a caution for unsporting behaviour.32:43
Free kick awarded for a foul by Phil Bardsley on Gabriel Agbonlahor.31:30
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Christian Benteke by Phil Bardsley. The free kick is swung in left-footed by Barry Bannan.30:55
Centre by Sebastian Larsson, Header from deep inside the area by Stephane Sessegnon goes over the bar.29:55
Lee Cattermole has shot on goal from just outside the area which goes wide of the right-hand upright.29:03
The assistant referee signals for offside against Steven Fletcher. Ciaran Clark restarts play with the free kick.27:41
Inswinging corner taken from the right by-line by Adam Johnson, clearance made by Andreas Weimann.25:59
Lee Cattermole produces a cross.25:04
Sebastian Larsson fouled by Eric Lichaj, the ref awards a free kick. Free kick crossed left-footed by Adam Johnson, clearance made by Stephen Ireland.24:22
Stephen Ireland challenges Lee Cattermole unfairly and gives away a free kick. Carlos Cuellar takes the free kick.23:21
Craig Gardner produces a right-footed shot from just outside the area that goes wide left of the goal.21:41
Unfair challenge on Steven Fletcher by Ciaran Clark results in a free kick. Free kick crossed right-footed by Sebastian Larsson.20:50
Outswinging corner taken left-footed by Barry Bannan, Christian Benteke takes a shot. Simon Mignolet makes a comfortable save.20:30
The ball is swung over by Matthew Lowton, Carlos Cuellar manages to make a clearance.18:51
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Stephane Sessegnon by Eric Lichaj. Free kick crossed left-footed by Adam Johnson, save by Simon Mignolet.17:33
Shot by Gabriel Agbonlahor. Blocked by Phil Bardsley. Barry Bannan takes a inswinging corner.16:46
Barry Bannan takes a outswinging corner.14:34
The ball is crossed by Jack Colback, free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Eric Lichaj by Sebastian Larsson. Direct free kick taken by Bradley Guzan.14:07
The ball is sent over by Craig Gardner.13:34
Unfair challenge on Christian Benteke by John O'Shea results in a free kick. Eric Lichaj takes the free kick.11:38
Corner from the right by-line taken by Barry Bannan, Header on goal by Christian Benteke from inside the box goes harmlessly over the target.10:27 Substitution
Substitution Eric Lichaj is brought on as a substitute for Joe Bennett.10:11
Right-footed shot by Ron Vlaar missed to the left of the goal.7:23
Barry Bannan crosses the ball, save made by Simon Mignolet.6:09
Corner taken left-footed by Barry Bannan, Matthew Lowton has an effort at goal from 20 yards. Craig Gardner gets a block in. Inswinging corner taken from the right by-line by Andreas Weimann.5:27
Craig Gardner challenges Stephen Ireland unfairly and gives away a free kick. Ron Vlaar restarts play with the free kick.3:52
The assistant referee flags for offside against Steven Fletcher. Bradley Guzan takes the free kick.0:00
The match has kicked off.
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