By Rob Bishop
Villa were once again frustrated by Wigan Athletic, who avoided defeat at Villa Park for the sixth consecutive season.
Gary McAllister's men found the going tough as the relegation-threatened Latics claimed a vital point in their battle to avoid the drop.
A superb 17th-minute Ashley Young goal put Villa level after the visitors had gone ahead through Charles N'Zogbia and there were subsequently few chances at either end until Ali Al Habsi made a crucial save from Darren Bent seven minutes from time.
Although Villa dictated the opening 10 minutes, they were rocked when Wigan grabbed the lead with their first attack of any note.
Victor Moses made a strong run though the middle before making a short pass inside the penalty area to N'Zogbia, who sent a low, angled left-foot shot past Brad Friedel and into the far corner.
Seven minutes later, the home side were level with their own first shot on target.
Having been brought down by Ben Watson three yards outside the area, Young touched the resultant free-kick to Stiliyan Petrov, and when the skipper simply put his foot on the ball, the winger bent a low right-foot shot around the Latics' defensive wall.
Al Habsi managed to get a hand to the ball but was unable to prevent it going just inside the post.
Only a superb instinctive save by Al Habsi prevented Emile Heskey from giving Villa a 23rd-minute lead, the keeper somehow managing to claw the ball to safety after Heskey had hit a powerful shot on the turn from eight yards.
There was a repeat of the Young-Petrov free-kick routine on 31 minutes but this time it was from further out and from a more difficult angle.
Although Young struck his shot well, Al Habsi held it with no great difficulty.
After Villa had been denied a possible penalty when Young went down under James McCarthy's challenge, Heskey earned himself a yellow card for remonstrating too strongly with referee Mike Jones after being fouled.
Although Villa were now on top, the visitors almost went back in front on the stroke of half-time, Antolin Alcaraz finding space at the far post for a tremendous drive which looked a certain goal until Richard Dunne flung himself into its path to divert it for a corner.
Heskey was replaced by Marc Albrighton at the start of the second half, the youngster slotting in on the right while Young moved into a central role just behind Bent.
Villa's early threats, though, came from the left, Stewart Downing sending a rising drive over the bar and then seeing another effort strike an opponent's arm, although his appeals for a penalty fell on deaf ears.
The game was still fluctuating, and Friedel did well to hold a fierce shot from Moses before Nigel Reo-Coker's smart flick set up Downing for a drive which flew over.
But Villa hearts were in their mouths in the 77th minute, when Hugo Rodallega, despite being closely marked by Dunne, got in a low shot on the turn which sneaked just past the far post.
A draw was looking increasingly likely, although Villa nearly broke the deadlock in the 83rd minute when a delightful move between Albrighton and Young sent Bent racing clear as Gary Caldwell slipped.
Bearing down on goal, the record-signing was poised for his eighth goal since his move from Sunderland until Al Habsi spread himself to save with his legs.