By Rob Bishop
The bells were ringing for a vital Villa victory after James Collins secured all three points with a fine glancing header against Newcastle United.
The Wales international diverted Ashley Young's 24th-minute free-kick just inside the post to give Gerard Houllier's men breathing space in the battle for Barclays Premier League survival.
Villa were good value for the result, despite a late Magpies rally in which Brad Friedel twice saved superbly from Peter Lovernkrands.
The home side enjoyed the lion's share of possession, with record signing Darren Bent denied what looked a perfectly good goal and penalty when he was pushed by Steven Taylor.
After a fairly quiet opening, Jean II Makoun's lofted pass offered the possibility of Villa menace but Stewart Downing's first touch carried the ball a touch too far in front of him, allowing Steve Harper to race out and gather it just inside the penalty area.
Newcastle's response was a raid down the left which ended with Joey Barton lunging for a far-post header which was much too high, although Friedel needed to be alert when Jonas Guitierrez released striker Nile Ranger for a low shot which the keeper held well.
There was, understandably, a touch of nerves about Villa's early play which transmitted itself to the stands.
But the mood lifted dramatically when Collins opened the scoring.
Mike Williamson had just been booked for a crude challenge on Gabby Agbonlahor when Barton brought down Young on the left.
The England international delivered a curling free kick into the danger zone, and Collins' glancing header from 12 yards took the ball past Harper's reach and just inside the left hand post.
That was just the boost Villa needed and after Bent had seen a shot charged down, Downing worked himself into position from which he fired over from just outside the penalty area.
Then Young had a 25-yard effort deflected for a corner which almost led to a second goal.
The winger's flag kick from the right was met by Dunne, whose header was scrambled from the goalmouth.
The home side were now pushing forward with confidence. Bent was unable to keep his header down following a Downing cross, but on the stroke of half-time the club's record signing had the ball in the net following Makoun's superb reverse pass, only to be the victim of a marginal offside decision which video evidence indicated was incorrect.
The momentum was maintained after the interval, too, Petrov's fine pass creating the chance for Agbonlahor to cut in from the left and unleash an angled right-foot drive which Harper did well to tip away.
Young then sent a shot only just off target while Agbonlahor had a low drive held by Harper before Bent was pushed over by Taylor as he lined up a shot following Agbonlahor's superb cross-field pass.
It looked a fair shout for a penalty and Bent was adamant one should have been awarded but his appeals were ignored by referee Stuart Attwell.
Collins again ventured forward in the 75th minute but this time his header from Young's corner was booted clear from a crowded goalmouth before it could inflict any damage.
The visitors had barely posed a threat since half-time but Villa hearts were in their mouths when Lovenkrands met Barton's 89th minute cross with a downward header which Friedel held as he dived to his left.
In stoppage time, Friedel again came to the rescue, keeping out Lovernkrands' low drive with his legs - but Villa held on for a vital victory.
VILLA: Friedel, L Young, Dunne, Collins, Walker [Cuellar 78], Downing, A Young, Makoun [Reo-Coker 67], Petrov, Agbonlahor [Pires 86], Bent. Subs: Marshall, Clark, Albrighton, Heskey.
NEWCASTLE: Harper, Coloccini, Enrique, Williamson, Simpson, Taylor [Taylor 63], Barton, Guthrie, Gutierrez, Lovenkrands, Ranger [Kuqi 83]. Subs: Krul, Tavernier, Ferguson, Donaldson, Richardson.