By Dan Harrison
The Second City derby spoils went to Birmingham City as Nikola Zigic struck late on to eliminate Villa from the Carling Cup.
Zigic scored four minutes from time as Blues were victorious in this pulsating quarter-final tie at St Andrew's.
It was rough justice on Gerard Houllier's team, who had fought back from Sebastian Larsson's early penalty to equalise through derby day king Gabby Agbonlahor and then proceeded to dictate possession for long periods.
But Alex McLeish's team advanced to the semi-finals after winning a first Second City derby in eight attempts.
There is a very good reason why supporters call this one the ding dong derby.
If October's goalless draw at Villa Park lacked in entertainment, you certainly couldn't say the same about this one.
While Villa imposed their passing game from the outset, it was Blues who struck the first telling blow.
The visitors had looked the most threatening and Blues were thankful to Zigic who cleared a James Collins header from the goalmouth.
But Cameron Jerome capitalised on a moment of indecision in the Villa penalty area and found Lee Bowyer who went down after Richard Dunne's challenge from behind.
Referee Chris Foy didn't hesitate in pointing to the spot and Larsson coolly sent Brad Friedel the wrong way to make it advantage Birmingham on 12 minutes.
Both sides continued to threaten - Luke Young's back header sailing narrowly off target before the Villa defender got a key touch in the nick of time to deny Zigic a goalscoring opportunity.
Margins are so tight in these derby clashes, however, and the complexion of the first period altered drastically in a frantic 60 second burst.
Zigic thought he had made it 2-0 when Friedel clawed back his close-range effort after Larsson's corner had been headed into the danger area by Roger Johnson.
Despite the Blues players disputing that the shot had crossed the line, the referee's assistant promptly raised his flag, having spotted Liam Ridgewell in an offside position.
No sooner had the raucous St Andrew's crowd come to terms with incident, Villa were celebrating a leveller.
The identity of the goalscorer came as no surprise.
Agbonlahor's 30th minute equaliser was his fourth in five games against Blues - and it was timed to perfection.
It came from a classic Villa counter. Ashley Young motored down the left before checking inside to supply Jonathan Hogg to his right.
Agbonlahor patiently awaited the 21-year-old's searching pass, muscled his way between the Blues centre-backs and slotted across Ben Foster.
While Blues felt hard done by, Jerome had a golden opportunity to restore the lead with a deft lob when he beat the offside trap but he couldn't steer his effort on target.
Boosted by Agbonlahor's strike, Villa began the second-half at an electric pace.
Foster was in for a busy spell in the Blues goal. He had to be alert twice in quick succession - firstly keeping out Ashley Young's angled drive after a fine burst down the right and then Foster held Barry Bannan's 25-yard attempt.
Both sides introduced fresh legs to try and conjure up some inspiration - and it was Villa who sensed a winner.
Again Foster was instrumental in keeping the scores level, parrying an effort from Villa sub Stephen Ireland before instinctively blocking Young's follow-up.
And former claret and blues star Craig Gardner also looked to make an impact from the bench, shooting off target from distance after some nifty footwork.
But Zigic had the final say. The Serb scrambled home the decisive winner via a deflection off Luke Young after Jerome found space on the right and crossed into the six-yard area.
BLUES: Foster, Carr, Johnson, Dann, Ridgewell, Fahey, Ferguson, Bowyer, Larsson, Jerome, Zigic. Subs: Taylor, Murphy (for Larsson, 87), Gardner (for Bowyer, 65), Derbyshire (for Zigic, 90), Michel, Beausejour, Jiranek.
VILLA: Friedel; L Young, Collins, Dunne, Warnock; Bannan, Hogg, Clark, Downing; A Young, Agbonlahor. Subs: Guzan, Pires (for Hogg, 90), Cuellar, Lichaj, Delfouneso (for Warnock, 90), Carew, Ireland (for Bannan, 73).