Match report: Villa 1-2 Newcastle
A stirring second-half performance failed to bring Villa any reward as they slipped to an agonising defeat at the hands of fellow strugglers Newcastle.
Paul Lambert's men could do little right in the opening 45 minutes, going two-down to goals from Papiss Cisse and Yohan Cabaye.
But it was a vastly different story after the introduction of subs Gabby Agbonlahor and Andreas Weimann at the start of the second half.
Suddenly Villa were in command, with the previously impressive Magpies forced to defend desperately.
Christian Benteke halved the deficit with a 49th-minute penalty and Villa produced wave after wave of attack, only to be denied time and again by keeper Tim Krul.
Villa's nerves were all too evident in the early stages as Newcastle looked the more assured side, although an incisive first home attack led to strong appeals for a penalty.
Charles N'Zogbia's fine pass sent Benteke down the left, and the striker's low cross appeared to be handled by Fabricio Coloccini as the Magpies' skipper made a vital interception.
Referee Mike Dean possibly took the view that it was unintentional as Coloccini was on the ground as he made contact with his arm, but Villa paid a heavy price for the decision which went against them.
Although Brad Guzan pushed away Davide Santon's powerful angled drive a minute later, the visitors were ahead on 15 minutes, Cisse moving on to a through ball from debut boy Moussa Sissoko to drill a low right-foot shot past the advancing keeper from 15 yards.
Villa's first-half fortunes were perfectly summed up by two tremendous shots, one at either end.
N'Zogbia was desperately unlucky not to equalise when his thundering left-foot volley from 22 yards beat Tim Krul, only to come back off the right-hand post.
When Cabaye tried his luck from similar distance in the 31st minute, though, the ball flew past Guzan and into the top corner to put the Geordies two-up.
It was hard going as Villa attempted to get back into the game, and the closest they came before the interval was when Benteke fired well over as he turned on to Ashley Westwood's right-wing centre.
But it was a different story on the resumption.
Barely 30 second had elapsed when Agbonlahor played the ball inside to Weimann, whose shot on the turn was pushed out by Krul.
Then N'Zogbia's astute pass set up Benteke for a drive which was once again palmed away by Krul, before Lambert's outfit reduced the deficit.
Agbonlahor was moving away from goal as he was brought down by Mathieu Debuchy just inside the area but referee Mike Dean had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
The nerveless Benteke sent Krul the wrong way, tucking his kick into the bottom corner, and it was game-on.
As Villa continued to press, a magnificent move down the left, involving Ciaran Clark, Agbonlahor and Benteke ended with Weimann's low right-footer being tipped away by Krul.
Villa were now so much in control that it was the 75th minute before Guzan needed to make his first save of the second period, the keeper comfortably collecting Cabaye's deflected shot.
But the home side were soon back on the offensive, Baker meeting Westwood's right-wing corner with a header which was cleared from a crowded goalmouth by Jonas Gutierrez.
However, they couldn't find that killer second as the clock ticked down.
Villa: Guzan; Clark, Vlaar, Baker; Lowton, N'Zogbia, Westwood, Bannan, Bennett (Weimann HT); Bent (Agbonlahor HT), Benteke. Unused subs: Given, Ireland, Holman, Bowery, Lichaj.
Newcastle: Krul; Debuchy, Taylor, Coloccini, Santon; Gouffran, Cabaye, Sissoko (Yanga-Mbiwa 79), Perch (Shola Ameobi 69), Gutierrez; Cisse. Unused subs: Harper, Williamson, Anita, Bigirimana, Sammy Ameobi.