Match report: Sunderland 3-1 Villa
Villa fell to defeat against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.
Patrick van Aanholt gave the home side the lead, Carles Gil levelled before a late brace from Jermain Defoe secured victory for the hosts.
Boss Rémi Garde opted for a strong attacking line-up - with Gil, Jack Grealish and Rudy Gestede leading the attack.
There was also a start for left-back Aly Cissokho after he was recalled from his loan spell at Porto.
Having lost their previous five matches, the hosts were also desperate to record victory and created the first opportunity of the contest - Duncan Watmore firing over after meeting a cheeky backheel from Fabio Borini.
For Villa, Leandro Bacuna, who terrorised the Black Cats in last season's 4-0 win at the same venue, occupied a role in midfield and came close to putting Villa ahead early doors.
With five minutes on the clock, the Dutchman cut inside Yann M'Vila and his curling strike edged just wide of the intended target.
Moments later, he charged forward from midfield and fired a low left-footed drive wide.
Roared on by a strong following from the second city, the visitors began to dictate possession.
Only a fingertip save from Vito Mannone denied Jordan Veretout after Bacuna's right-wing cross was only partially cleared by the Sunderland backline.
At the other end, Watmore hit an effort straight at Brad Guzan while Borini headed a decent opportunity wide.
Sam Allardyce's men took the lead somewhat against the run of play and in fortuitous circumstances just shy of half an hour - van Aanholt's strike taking a cruel deflection off skipper Micah Richards, wrong-footing Guzan in the process.
The response from Villa was positive, however.
They could have equalised on 34 minutes as Gestede latched onto Cissokho's cross but couldn't quite direct enough power in his header.
On the stroke of half-time, van Aanholt stepped up to take a free-kick after the backtracking Bacuna fouled Billy Jones but his shot was wide.
Both sides were clearly instructed by their managers to attack as the second period got underway.
Guzan and Richards had to be alert from Defoe shots while Mannone punched Veretout's corner clear and watched Gestede's header edge narrowly over the bar.
Playmaker Gil pushed forward and was at the forefront of Villa's attacking play.
He spurned a long-range effort wide after meeting the strong Gestede's knockdown.
He made no mistake moments later as the visitors were level on 63 minutes, assisted greatly by substitute Adama Traore.
The former Barcelona man used his lightning-quick pace to venture down the flank and his perfect right-wing cross was volleyed home superbly by Gil.
It's often said teams are at their most vulnerable after scoring and the Wearsiders came straight back at Garde's lions.
Joleon Lescott cleared van Aanholt's ball into the six-yard box with a number of red and white shirts lurking.
The home side regained their advantage as Defoe controlled and rifled a tidy finish past Guzan.
Adama continued to cause problems down the right and saw crosses cut out.
Yet, the home side also looked likely to add to their tally as the match opened up.
With five minutes of normal time remaining, the recently-introduced Danny Graham brought down a cross-field ball just inside the area but Bacuna was back to clear.
Moments later, Graham was picked out in space on the left again but could not truly test the Villa stopper.
The claret and blues attacked until the end - Gestede found the side netting with an angled drive while only commanding goalkeeping from Mannone cleared a crisp Cissokho cross.
Sunderland broke and sealed victory in stoppage time.
The wily Defoe, using his experience, met Ola Toivonen's cutback to slot home.
Defoe then had the ball in the net for a third time, only to be adjudged as offside.
SUNDERLAND: Mannone, Jones, O'Shea (c), Brown, van Aanholt, Cattermole, M'Vila, Johnson (Coates 88), Borini (Toivonen 79), Watmore (Graham 56), Defoe. Unused subs: Pantilimon, Lens, Yedlin, Fletcher.
VILLA: Guzan, Hutton (Kozak 75), Richards (c), Lescott, Cissokho, Bacuna, Gana, Veretout, Grealish (Adama 56, Sinclair 88), Gil, Gestede. Unused subs: Bunn, Okore, Clark, Richardson.