Villa 6-1 Sunderland report: Six of the best for Lambert's Lions
Christian Benteke lit up Villa Park with 17-minute second half hat-trick which destroyed Sunderland and gave a massive boost to Villa's survival hopes.
The Belgium international was in devastating form as he became the first Villa player since Juan Pablo Angel to score more than 20 goals in one season.
But it certainly wasn't a one-man show.
Skipper Ron Vlaar hit his first goal for the club since his move from Feyenoord last summer while Gabby Agbonlahor's late effort saw him break Dwight Yorke's record as Villa's highest Premier League scorer.
Agbonlahor now has 61 and even if his latest effort was a relatively simple affair, it will have given him as much pleasure as any he has scored.
It completed Villa's biggest win since the 6-0 at Derby County five years ago and gave the team's goal difference an extra lift as Paul Lambert's side climbed to 16th in the table.
Vlaar' s stunner gave Villa a 30th-minute lead, only for the on-loan Danny Rose to put Sunderland level a couple of minutes later.
But Andreas Weimann restored the advantage on 38 minutes and Villa cut loose after the interval.
The last two goals came after Paolo Di Canio's side had been reduced to 10 men after Stephane Sessegnon had been sent off for a reckless challenge on Yacouba Sylla, but there was no question about Villa's entitlement to such an emphatic victory.
Some frenetic early exchanges reflected the importance of the occasion as play switched rapidly from end to end with neither side able to establish any sort of superiority.
Craig Gardner caused a few flutters in the home defence when he got in front of Brad Guzan to meet Phil Bardsley's lofted pass, but the former Villa man's low cross-shot was cleared for a corner.
Fabian Delph then blocked an Adam Johnson effort as Villa struggled to settle and it was the 26th minute before the home side posed a genuine threat.
When it happened, though, they should have been ahead, Agbonlahor steering a low shot narrowly beyond the far post after exchanging passes with Benteke.
But after Johnson had sent a low centre across the face of goal and Seb Larsson's curling free-kick had been saved by Guzan, Villa were ahead on the half-hour mark.
Benteke and Ashley Westwood both had shots charged down during a sustained spell of pressure but when the ball ran loose, it was collected by Vlaar, who strode forward before unleashing a tremendous 30-yard drive which left Simon Mignolet helpless as it thudded into the bottom corner.
The skipper's animated celebration indicated just how much the breakthrough meant but two minutes later the delight turned to dejection as the visitors grabbed a quick equaliser.
Cutting in from the left, Rose played a one-two with Danny Graham and beat Guzan with a low, angled drive which flew into the far corner.
Villa were frustrated when Agbonlahor's shot appeared to be handled by a defender, and again when Weimann's shot was held at the foot of a post by MIgnolet.
But Lambert's men were back in front with another fine goal in the 38th minute.
Matt Lowton was the instigator, cutting out an attempted through ball with his chest before surging forward from inside his own half.
Having made progress down the right, the full-back picked out Weimann with a perfect crossfield pass.
The Austrian striker brought the ball under control just inside the penalty area before sending a low right-footer beyond Mignolet.
Even so, the Wearsiders finished the first half on top, Alfred N'Diaye's long-range shot being held by Guzan before Gardner's effort was disallowed for a foul on the keeper by Graham.
Ten minutes into the second half, though, Benteke gave Villa some breathing space, stooping to head home the rebound after Agbonlahor had produced some clever footwork before hitting a swerving 20-yarder which Mignolet could only parry.
Four minutes later Benteke pounced again, this time squeezing the ball just inside the post as he met Westwood's deep corner from the left with a downward header.
And although Weimann had two shots blocked in quick succession, there was simply no stopping the Belgian striker.
In the 72nd minute, after Sessegnon had been sent off, Benteke capitalised on a mistake by another ex-Villa man, Carlos Cuellar to send a left-foot shot past Mignolet from a narrow angle.
In the 88th minute, Agbonlahor put the finishing touch to a wonderful night when he latched on to sub David Vaughan misplaced back pass, took the ball around Mignolet, stroked home number six - and wrote himself into the record books.
Villa: Guzan; Lowton, Vlaar, Baker, Bennett; Westwood, Sylla, Delph; Agbonlahor, Benteke (Bent 78), Weimann. Unused subs: Given, N'Zogbia, Holman, Bowery, Bannan, Lichaj.
Sunderland: Mignolet; Bardsley, Cuellar, O'Shea, Rose; Larsson (McClean 61), Gardner (Vaughan 87), N'Diaye, Johnson; Sessegnon; Graham (Mandron 86). Unused subs: Westwood, Kilgallon, Colback, Mangane.