By Rob Bishop
Honours were even in the Second City derby, James Collins earning Villa a point with his 73rd-minute equaliser at St Andrew's.
Blues had taken a 49th-minute lead through Roger Johnson but there was no denying that Gerard Houllier's side were good value for a draw which lifts them out of the bottom three in the Barclays Premier League.
Apart from the equaliser, which went in off former Villa man Liam Ridgewell, the boys in claret and blue created a succession of good chances, with John Carew, Ciaran Clark and substitute Nathan Delfouneso all hitting the bar.
The game opened at a frantic pace, with half-a-dozen goal attempts inside the opening 10 minutes.
With barely 60 seconds on the clock, Stewart Downing pressurised goalkeeper Ben Foster into a rushed clearance which Gabby Agnonlahor collected on the left before darting into the penalty area to send a fierce rising drive over the bar.
Downing then hit a low shot wide before Blues responded with a Craig Gardner volley which flew over and a Johnson header which was wide.
As the pendulum swung the other way, Richard Dunne sent a header off target before Villa were desperately close to an eighth-minute lead.
Picking up a short pass from Marc Albrighton, new boy Kyle Walker delivered a right-wing cross which was nodded back across the goalmouth by Agbonlahor.
Although he was facing away from goal, Carew's invention saw him produce a back header which beat Foster but clipped the top of the bar.
Carew struck the bar again when he met another Walker centre on 21 minutes, although this time the Norwegian striker was penalised for a pushing offence - and a minute later Blues should have grabbed the lead.
Gardner crossed low from the left, leaving Matt Derbyshire with only Brad Friedel to beat.
From six yards, though, the striker embarrassingly failed to make contact with the ball, leaving Villa to breathe a huge sigh of relief. Having survived that let-off,
Villa were again close when Ciaran Clark's swerving centre deceived Foster and hit the bar.
After Friedel had made his first save, diving to hold Keith Fahey's low effort, Dunne ventured forward to meet Albrighton's deep corner with a header which was cleared from a crowded goalmouth.
As the first half drew to a close, both teams produced decent chances.
Collins stuck out his left leg to deflect Alexander Hleb's shot for a corner, but almost immediately Albrighton wasn't far wide with a low right-foot shot from 10 yards.
Carew had good reason to feel aggrieved when his low shot just after the interval went behind off Ridgewell, only for referee Mark Clattenburg to award a goal-kick.
But that was nothing compared to Villa's pain when they fell behind in the 49th minute.
Gardner's free-kick was flicked on by David Murphy, and Johnson drilled the ball firmly past Friedel from 12 yards.
There was almost an equaliser six minutes later, Clark's fiercely-driven cross glancing off Johnson's head and sneaking just beyond the far post for a corner.
Stiliyan Petrov and Downing were also close with free-kicks which were just too high but in between times there was another scare for the visitors.
Barry Ferguson's pass set up Derbyshire for a powerful angled drive which was brilliantly tipped aside by Friedel before Walker completed the clearance.
The Villa boss made a double substitution on 71 minutes, sending on Barry Bannan and Nathan Delfouneso, and the move paid almost instant dividends with an equaliser two minutes later.
Much of the credit should go to Walker, who did well to keep the ball in play when under pressure on the bye-line.
The full-back played a shot pass back to Albrighton, whose cross was nodded on by Agbonlahor, and Collins hooked goalwards, his shot going in off Ridgewell.
With Villa now looking for a winner, Downing's shot hit Foster's legs after good work by Agbonlahor and Delfouneso.
And although Dunne did well to block Gardner's low effort from an acute angle there were two further clear cut Villa openings in the final stages.
Dunne's 84th-minute header was cleared off the line by Ridgewell, with Collins firing the rebounds just wide and then Delfouneso's swerving drive was tipped on to the bar by Foster.
It would certainly have been a travesty if Nicola Zigic's stoppage time header from Foster's gone in instead of dropping just wide.
BLUES: Foster; Carr, Johnson, Ridgewell, Murphy; Gardner, Ferguson, Fahey, Bentley; Hleb; Derbyshire. Subs: Taylor, Bowyer (for Derbyshire, 84), Phillips, Zigic (for Hleb, 76), Beausejour, Mutch, Jiranek.
VILLA: Friedel; Walker, Dunne, Collins, Clark; Albrighton, Petrov, Reo-Coker, Downing; Carew, Agbonlahor. Subs: Marshall, Pires, Delfouneso (for Carew, 71), Cuellar, Bannan (for Reo-Coker, 71), Hogg, Baker.