Wigan Athletic moved out of the Premier League relegation zone and above Aston Villa with an emphatic victory over their struggling hosts.
Wigan made the perfect start when Ivan Ramis escaped his marker to meet Jean Beausejour's corner with a firm header.
Brett Holman smashed a half-volley against the crossbar as Villa briefly threatened before the interval.
Emmerson Boyce calmly slotted in after a superb one-two with Arouna Kone, who added the third from a tight angle.
Hordes of frustrated Villa supporters headed for the exits immediately after Kone completed a routine win that lifts the Latics above Villa into 16th place.
Most of the pre-match talk centred on how their young side, with an average age of 23, would react to conceding 12 goals in their previous two matches.
But they made the worst possible start by conceding their 13th goal in just 183 minutes - after being let down by basic defensive errors at a Wigan set-piece.
The visitors' central defender Ramis, making his first start since late November following a hamstring injury, easily escaped his marker Christian Benteke and took advantage with a powerful eight-yard header from Beausejour's left-wing corner.
The Latics grew in confidence, stroking the ball around as a leaderless-looking Villa chased after their visitors, but Wigan failed to stretch home keeper Brad Guzan again before half-time, despite creating a number of decent opportunities to double their lead.
Wigan midfielder Shaun Maloney appealed for a penalty after he felt he was impeded by Villa's Stephen Ireland and also fired over from Beausejour's pull-back following the Chilean winger's clever run down the left.
The hosts finally managed to build some sustained pressure as half-time loomed, Benteke drilling low into the net with the flag already raised against an offside Andreas Weimann.
And they should have been level at the break when Joe Bennett's deep free-kick was nodded down by Benteke to the far post where Holman's effort beat Al Habsi but hit the crossbar.
Villa started the second half by creating another opportunity which Benteke headed over but within six minutes they were further behind, Latics defender Boyce bursting through the Villa midfield before stylishly finishing past Guzan after exchanging one-touch passes with Kone.
It was killer blow for an already demoralised Villa and Wigan, who had not won in their previous six matches, capitalised on the hosts' fragile confidence with a third goal.
Kone, recently called up by Ivory Coast for their Africa Cup of Nations squad having missed the past two tournaments, brushed aside a weak challenge from Matthew Lowton to race on to Franco Di Santo's pass and round Guzan before converting.
Villa's dismal day ended with those home fans still inside the half-empty Villa Park ironically cheering substitute Jordan Bowery's late shot on target - though there was some solace as Stoke's late equaliser against Southampton at least stopped them sliding into the bottom three.
Wigan manager Roberto Martinez:
"I felt from the first second the players were really focused. It was very important for us to keep a clean sheet but what they did going forward was first-class.
"The movement was very precise and the penetration was very good. I thought we could have got a few more goals if that final pass was cuter.
"It is not just the win against Aston Villa which is important - it's the three points we wanted.
"You can't think anything until you reach 40 points, but today is a massive, massive boost."