By Dan Harrison
Harry Forrester's wonderful late strike wasn't quite enough to give Villa three points as a dramatic stoppage time equaliser meant Chelsea left Hinckley with a point.
Samir Carruthers put the home team ahead in the first-half before the claret and blues were pegged back after the break by Nathaniel Chalobah.
In an incident-packed game, Chelsea's Gokhan Tore saw red for a scuffle with Villa's Irish defender Daniel Devine.
It allowed the claret and blues to reclaim the advantage and Forrester thought he'd sealed victory with his well-struck 87th minute effort.
But super sub Adam Phillip had the final say deep in added time with a goal that leaves Villa four points behind league leaders Arsenal with a game in hand.
Whatever the scoreline, Villa's return to Hinckley was always going to be an anti-climax following the 10-1 mauling of the Gunners at the same venue on January 10.
Five of the players who featured that night - Shane Lowry, Andreas Weimann, Eric Lichaj, Jonathan Hogg and Isaiah Osbourne - have since headed out on loan leaving the next batch of youngsters on the production line to continue Villa's Southern Group title challenge.
But Barry Bannan returned to second string action as skipper, while the likes of Nathan Delfouneso, Chris Herd and Gary Gardner were hungry for another scintillating performance.
In truth, the prospect of another perfect 10 never seemed likely although Villa certainly dominated the first-half and were good value for their slender lead at the break.
Gardner and Bannan both tested Chelsea's Jan Sebek with free-kicks, while the visiting goalkeeper also did well to parry Delfouneso first-time shot after the Villa striker raced on to Bannan's incisive pass.
Chelsea's best first-half opportunity also came from a ball over the top.
Fabio Borini - a hat-trick hero in a 4-3 win over West Ham over last week - surged past Villa keeper Elliot Parish, continued forward and struck the post from a tight angle.
The hosts had already hit the woodwork when Delfouneso displayed fine footwork on the edge of the box to feed Gardner who was unfortunate to see his effort cannon off the foot of the post.
But Villa's pressure paid off five minutes before the break. A terrific move started with Andras Stieber's perfectly-weighted lofted pass into the left channel.
Delfouneso collected possession, cut in from the left and teed up Carruthers who neatly side-footed home from inside the box.
Coach Kevin MacDonald will have demanded more of the same from his troops in the second period and for the first few minutes it looked as though his wishes would be granted.
Early in the half, Forrester's powerful half-volley was spectacularly tipped over by the impressive Sebek.
But the visitors began to take charge and Jacopo Sala was unlucky to see a close-range shot strike the inside of the post.
On 55 minutes, full-back Chalobah ventured forward and thumped the equaliser high into the roof of the net at the back post after meeting Milan Lalkovic's corner.
There was a further shift in momentum on 58 minutes when Tore was dismissed - the Chelsea player appearing to lash out at Devine.
It allowed Villa to regain the initiative, with Forrester having an angled drive cleared off the line and Delfouneso denied with a low left-foot strike.
Then came a double dose of late drama. With three minutes left, Forrester thought he'd won it with an unstoppable strike. Carruthers switched the play from the right hand side after receiving Bannan's deft pass,
Forrester cut in from the left and fired high across Sebek into the top corner.
However, Chelsea sub Phillip seemed destined to have the final say.
In the last minute of normal time, Parish stood tall to push away his initial shot, then in injury time Phillip stuck out a leg to divert a close-range effort past Parish and snatch a point.
Check out AVTV's exclusive interview with midfielder Gary Gardner - click here.
VILLA: Parish; Herd, Devine, Williams, Baker; Carruthers, Gardner, Bannan, Steiber; Forrester, Delfouneso. Subs: Berry (for Herd, 88), Barrett, Deeney (for Carruthers, 88), Johnson, Graham (for Forrester, 90).
CHELSEA: Sebek, Chalobah, Pappoe, Kalas, Clifford, Woods, Tore, Djalo, Borini, Sala, Lalkovic. Subs: Phillip (for Woods, 88), Walker, Deen-Conteh (for Djalo, HT), Sampayo, Kane (for Lalkovic, 90).