By Dan Harrison at the Greene King Stadium
Villa survived a second-half Sunderland onslaught thanks to a shot-stopping masterclass from teenage goalkeeper Craig Hill.
Early goals from Marc Albrighton and Graham Burke set Gordon Cowans' team on the way to victory.
But the real hero of the night was keeper Hill, who produced a succession of outstanding saves to make sure of the points.
Sunderland fought back strongly and scored just before the break through Alex Gorrin.
The visitors, though, struggled to find a way past former Chelsea schoolboy Hill after having the better of the second period.
Albrighton was given the chance to build up his match sharpness with a first outing since the top-flight draw against Norwich on October 27.
And the Tamworth-born winger showed from the outset that he wasn't going to waste the opportunity.
He gave Villa the lead with a superbly-struck half-volley after eight minutes.
When Samir Carruthers found Albrighton with a cross-field ball from the left, the 22-year-old took one touch to control before unleashing a strike which looped over goalkeeper Ben Wilson into the far corner.
Wilson had already been called into action - firstly to push Michael Drennan's 25-yard drive around the post, before holding another Albrighton effort after the England U21 wideman cut in onto his left foot.
But the Sunderland custodian could do little about Burke's 13th minute effort which gave Villa a two-goal advantage.
Jordan Graham, who terrorised the opposition defence in a lively opening 45 minutes, waited for the Irish striker's run before teeing him up with a neat cutback.
Burke powered home a left-foot shot which found the bottom corner with the aid of a deflection off Connor Oliver.
But the visitors regrouped and Villa's Hill had to be at his best to deny Jordan Laidler and Adam Mitchell.
He made a stunning one-handed save to keep our Laidler's awkward right-foot volley, then Mitchell's angled drive was kept out at the near post.
The pressure finally told on the strike of half-time when Blair Adams surged past Josh Barton on the left flank and then picked out Gorrin who converted from six yards.
The second-half quickly turned into the battle of the goalkeepers.
Black Cats stopper Wilson got down low to his right to save a curling 25-yard effort from Burke.
However, he was upstaged by his opposite number Hill.
The Villa No.1 acrobatically pushed over Oliver Reed's shot which seemed destined for the top corner.
Late in the game he sprawled across his goal to divert substitute Mikael Mandron's first-time strike onto the bar.
Then he capped a fine individual display to thwart Mitchell from close range before Janoi Donacien ran across to block the follow-up.
VILLA: Hill, Barton, Williams, Stieber, Devine, Donacien, Albrighton, Carruthers, Drennan, Burke, Graham. Subs: Bateman [for Williams, 69], Barrett, Lyden [for Devine, 83], Melvin, Ward.
SUNDERLAND: Wilson, Marrs, Adams, Reed, Oliver, Ferguson, Mitchell, Gorrin, Laidler, Deacon, Lynch. Subs: Joyce, Dixon, Armstrong, Harrison, Mandron [for Deacon, 54].