By Rob Bishop
Villa did well to hold on for a point against Blackpool at Bloomfield Road after being reduced to 10 men for the final 20 minutes.
Cameroon midfielder Jean II Makoun was sent off for a mistimed challenge on DJ Campbell, leaving Gerard Houllier's men to fight a determined rearguard action for the remainder of the game.
Yet the visitors had started so promisingly, taking a 10th-minute lead with a superbly created goal from Gabby Agbonlahor.
Even after the Seasiders equalised through Elliot Grandin four minutes later, Villa enjoyed the better of an open, attacking first half, creating a number of good chances.
But they were unable to reproduce that enterprise after the interval and were happy with a point after Makoun's red card.
There was a chance at either end inside the first three minutes, Darren Bent having a shot charged down following Agbonlahor's pass before Grandin burst through the middle to drive over from outside the area.
But Villa made the early breakthrough when Makoun won possession deep in his own half and Nigel Reo-Coker played the ball forward to Bent on the half-way line.
A superb flick by the club's record signing sent Agbonlahor racing clear and he calmly slipped past keeper Richard Kingson before stroking a low shot into the far corner as two home defenders desperately tried to clear.
Four minutes later, though, the home side were level, Grandin sneaking in at the near post to catch Villa's defence napping with a downward header from Charlie Adam's inswinging corner.
The Seasiders nearly grabbed a second when Luke Varney's header flashed narrowly wide following a cross from former Villa man Marlon Harewood, although Villa weremore dangerous throughout an entertaining first half.
A second goal looked certain on 17 minutes when Makoun and Ashley Young combined to set up Stewart Downing for a left-foot shot which struck Kingson's outstretched leg.
And although Campbell quickly sent an angled shot only just wide of the far post, Downing again displayed his menace by embarking on a forceful diagonal run which ended with a fierce drive which was deflected for a corner.
It was game over for Carlos Cuellar in the 27th minute. The Spanish defender received a ticking-off from referee Howard Webb following a challenge on the half-way line but he clearly came off second best and ended up limping off to be replaced by James Collins.
Downing was still providing a great deal of Villa's threat and he was close to restoring the lead just past the half hour mark, twisting and turning in front of David Carney just outside the area before curling a left-foot shot which beat Kingson but clipped the outside of the right-hand post.
The bright sun which had been shining straight into the faces of Villa supporters disappeared behind the main stand at the start of the second half - but Blackpool suddenly looked the brighter team.
In the space of four minutes, Varney fired over from close range and Richard Dunne denied Campbell with a timely challenge right in front of goal before the striker met Varney's left-wing cross with his knee to nudge the ball just past the near post.
Campbell certainly did his team no favours in the 65th minute. Adam's powerful low 25-yarder was goal-bound - until the striker stuck out a leg and diverted it well off target.
Then substitute Jason Puncheon wasn't far wide with a left-foot volley from the edge of the box, and Villa's task became even more difficult following Makoun's dismissal two minutes later.
But Villa held firm - and might even have snatched victory in stoppage time, when Young went down under Alex Baptiste's challenge, only to have his penalty claim ignored by referee Webb.