Match report: Villa 1-2 Liverpool - Reds win Easter Sunday encounter
Christian Benteke fired home his 18th goal of the season but it ultimately brought no Easter joy to Villa Park.
The Belgian striker's well-struck 31st-minute volley raised hopes that Villa would climb out of the Barclays Premier League's bottom three.
But Jordan Henderson equalised less than two minutes after the interval, and skipper Steven Gerrard drilled home a 60th-minute penalty to give Liverpool revenge for Villa's 3-1 success at Anfield in December.
It was a bitterly disappointing outcome for Villa Park's biggest crowd of the season - 42,037 - although Benteke almost salvaged a point with a header which Gerrard cleared off the line.
The striker also had the ball in the net again in stoppage time but a linesman's flag was already raised for offside.
The high tempo of the game was established in the opening minute, Ashley Westwood throwing himself of the way of Stewart Downing's fierce drive.
A few minutes after than timely block, Westwood was instrumental in a sweet move which almost brought Villa an early lead.
Accepting Benteke's short pass, the midfielder played the ball wide to Joe Bennett, whose menacing cross from the left was just missed by both Benteke and Gabby Agbonlahor as they raced into the six-yard box.
There was another good chance when Andi Weimann's drive was blocked after Nathan Baker had headed Barry Bannan's deep free-kick back across the goalmouth.
Then Agbonlahor was taken by surprise as Matt Lowton's long through ball found its way through to him and he was unable to bring it under control as Pepe Reina raced out to challenge.
But after Brad Guzan had tipped a rising Luis Suarez shot over the bar as supporters engaged in the 19th minute Stiliyan Petrov applause, Villa went ahead just past the half hour mark.
Ironically, after all the attractive football they had produced, the goal came via a route one approach.
Westwood's long ball out of defence was knocked down by Agbonlahor just outside the penalty area, and Benteke produced a crisp volley which flew past Reina and into the corner of the net.
The home side were grateful, though, for an excellent challenge by Baker on Lucas in a dangerous position - and even more so when Guzan made two fine saves just before half-time.
First he did well to keep out a low Suarez drive following Bannan's misplaced pass, and then he tipped away Gerrard's angled shot at full stretch.
Those warning signs became reality within two minutes of the resumption, Henderson clipping the ball neatly over the advancing Guzan after Philippe Coutinho's superb pass from the left touchline had opened up the home defence.
The equaliser knocked Lambert's men out of the stride and there were a couple more worrying moments, first when Coutinho fired wide from a good position and then when Glen Johnson's angled shot from the right hand corner of the penalty area came back off the inside of the far post. In between those two let-offs,
Agbonlahor just failed to make contact with Weimann's cross from the right but on the hour Liverpool were in front, Gerrard sending his spot kick low to Guzan's right after Baker had brought down Suarez as the Uruguayan turned inside the area.
Villa's response was a Weimann shot over the bar following Yacouba Sylla's pass and that proved to be the Austrian's final contribution as he and Bannan were replaced by Charles N'Zogbia and Fabian Delph respectively.
Delph almost made a quick impact with a shot which deflected for a corner - and Westwood's flag kick was met by a Benteke header which looked a certain goal until Gerrard somehow managed to head off the line.
Lowton was also close with a lofted 35-yarder which Reina desperately tipped over as it dipped.
But Villa had lost most of the early zip, and the Merseysiders nearly grabbed a third when Suarez made a twisting run before Guzan dived to save at his feet.
Villa: Guzan; Lowton, Vlaar, Baker, Bennett; Westwood, Bannan (Delph 62); Weimann (N'Zogbia 62), Sylla (El Ahmadi 77), Agbonlahor; Benteke. Unused subs: Given, Bowery, Dawkins, Lichaj.
Liverpool: Reina; Johnson, Carragher, Agger, Enrique; Lucas; Downing, Gerrard, Henderson, Coutinho (Sterling 77); Suarez. Unused subs: Jones, Sturridge, Coates, Suso, Shelvey, Skrtel.