Match ends, Sunderland 0, Aston Villa 1.
Sunderland 0-1 Aston Villa
Aston Villa claimed their first victory in six games as Gabriel Agbonlahor scored the only goal at Sunderland.
Agbonlahor remained calm to round goalkeeper Vito Mannone after an error from home captain Lee Cattermole.
Mannone then made a great save to deny Leandro Bacuna, before Christian Benteke had an effort headed off the goalline by Phil Bardsley.
Sunderland had lots of possession but Emanuele Giaccherini, Steven Fletcher and Ji Dong-Won all shot off target.
Black Cats substitute Fabio Borini also had a goal disallowed for offside, but it was a hugely frustrating afternoon for home boss Gus Poyet.
His side are bottom of the table, four points from safety and showed why they have the joint worst goalscoring record in the Premier League with Cardiff City after only 15 goals from 20 matches.
The hosts passed the ball well, but in ineffective areas and lacked a cutting edge up front on a comfortable day for visiting goalkeeper Brad Guzan.
Villa were happy to play on the counter-attack and looked more likely to add to Agbonlahor's gifted opener than concede an equaliser.
Sunderland had been unbeaten in their last five matches and had chances to take the lead but Giaccherini, Fletcher and Ji, making only his second Premier League start of the season, all fired tamely off target inside the opening 10 minutes.
That wastefulness proved costly as the visitors went ahead after 15 minutes with Agbonlahor's third goal of the season.
There appeared to be little danger when Valentin Roberge played a square pass across goal 30 yards out, but Cattermole failed to control it and that enabled Agbonlahor to run in and take the ball around Mannone.
Villa striker Benteke, making his first appearance in four matches after a knee injury, nearly helped double his side's lead as his flick found Agbonlahor, whose 22-yard effort was well blocked by Mannone.
The Italian goalkeeper again did well at the start of the second half, when Bacuna's 25-yard strike took a huge deflection off Roberge and Mannone dived to push the ball to safety.
Sunderland thought they had equalised moments later when Borini put the ball into the net from Steven Fletcher's knock down, but was judged to be offside.
However, that was one of only a few chances for the hosts in the second half as the visitors continued to create the better opportunities.
Benteke came close to scoring his first goal since 14 September, but was denied by Bardsley's goalline clearance.
Villa substitute Marc Albrighton also wasted a late chance to seal the game by shooting well over when he only had Mannone to beat.
But it did not matter as Sunderland could not force their way back into the match and Paul Lambert's side claimed a deserved three points to move up to 11th in the table.
Sunderland manager Gus Poyet said:
"It is difficult to take. Football is unpredictable but when you start well and have chances you have to take them.
"Unfortunately the mistake was against us and after that there were too many nerves and too much tension.
"I don't know why they were nervous and we were not organised enough. People were making individual decisions, but not thinking as a team and that disappoints me. I'm getting a little bit fed up.
"The weakest people look for excuses and it is all down to us to correct it. We miss quality to play at this level and do what we need to do when we are in control of the game.
Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert said:
"We now have everybody fit and we are a really good side when that happens. We needed our big players back from injury and if you take out Christian Benteke and Ron Vlaar then they are a big part of our side.
"It could have been more than a 1-0 win, we had good chances so it could've been three or four.
"This is a hard place to come but I'm delighted with the result.
"We will try to bring in people if it's possible. If we can get one or two experienced players in to give us a hand then we will try to do that. It could give us a lift in the dressing room if we can do it."
For a gallery of images from Wednesday's Premier League games please go to theBBC Sport Facebook page.
- 33CattermoleSubstituted forBoriniat 45'minutes
- 29RobergeSubstituted forJohnsonat 77'minutes
- 4Ki Sung-yuengBooked at 64mins
- 14ColbackBooked at 90mins
- 27JiSubstituted forAltidoreat 67'minutesBooked at 90mins
- 23GiaccheriniBooked at 23mins
- 4VlaarSubstituted forAlbrightonat 70'minutes
- 7BacunaBooked at 41mins
- 16DelphBooked at 57mins
- 11AgbonlahorBooked at 90mins
- 8El Ahmadi
- Michael Jones
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Sunderland 0, Aston Villa 1.
Attempt missed. Fabian Delph (Aston Villa) left footed shot from the centre of the box is too high. Assisted by Marc Albrighton.
Hand ball by Steven Fletcher (Sunderland).
Offside, Sunderland. Adam Johnson tries a through ball, but Phillip Bardsley is caught offside.
Corner, Sunderland. Conceded by Antonio Luna.
Jozy Altidore (Sunderland) is shown the yellow card.
Gabriel Agbonlahor (Aston Villa) is shown the yellow card.
Jack Colback (Sunderland) is shown the yellow card.
Foul by Jack Colback (Sunderland).
Gabriel Agbonlahor (Aston Villa) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt missed. Emanuele Giaccherini (Sunderland) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by Jozy Altidore.
Attempt missed. Jack Colback (Sunderland) left footed shot from a difficult angle on the left is too high. Assisted by Jozy Altidore.
Attempt missed. Marc Albrighton (Aston Villa) right footed shot from the right side of the box is too high. Assisted by Andreas Weimann.
Offside, Sunderland. Fabio Borini tries a through ball, but Emanuele Giaccherini is caught offside.
Corner, Aston Villa. Conceded by Vito Mannone.
Attempt saved. Marc Albrighton (Aston Villa) right footed shot from the right side of the box is saved in the top right corner. Assisted by Ashley Westwood.
Attempt blocked. Fabio Borini (Sunderland) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Phillip Bardsley.
Attempt missed. Fabian Delph (Aston Villa) left footed shot from outside the box misses to the right. Assisted by Marc Albrighton.
Foul by Ondrej Celustka (Sunderland).
Andreas Weimann (Aston Villa) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Substitution, Sunderland. Adam Johnson replaces Valentin Roberge.
Corner, Sunderland. Conceded by Leandro Bacuna.
Corner, Sunderland. Conceded by Leandro Bacuna.
Attempt blocked. Ashley Westwood (Aston Villa) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Marc Albrighton.
Attempt blocked. Christian Benteke (Aston Villa) right footed shot from the left side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Gabriel Agbonlahor.
Attempt missed. Emanuele Giaccherini (Sunderland) right footed shot from outside the box is too high. Assisted by Jozy Altidore.
Modibo Diakité (Sunderland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Gabriel Agbonlahor (Aston Villa).
Attempt blocked. Steven Fletcher (Sunderland) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Jozy Altidore.
Substitution, Aston Villa. Marc Albrighton replaces Ron Vlaar because of an injury.
Attempt missed. Ki Sung-Yueng (Sunderland) left footed shot from outside the box misses to the left. Assisted by Jack Colback.
Delay over. They are ready to continue.
Substitution, Sunderland. Jozy Altidore replaces Ji Dong-Won.
Delay in match Ron Vlaar (Aston Villa) because of an injury.
Jack Colback (Sunderland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Fabian Delph (Aston Villa).
Ki Sung-Yueng (Sunderland) is shown the yellow card.
Attempt missed. Andreas Weimann (Aston Villa) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the right.
Foul by Modibo Diakité (Sunderland).