Villa U21s were made to pay for a poor start as they went down 3-2 at Bolton U21s.
Cian Bolger rose highest from a corner on 18 before the Trotters doubled their lead on 34 through Zach Clough.
Clough made it three to the hosts on 68 as they looked to be cruising to victory.
Villa looked down and out with 10 to go but Gordon Cowans's men almost produced a most unlikely comeback.
Graham Burke slotted home the first from a very tight angle on 80 and Callum Robinson curled in the second at the start of stoppage time.
And striker Robinson almost earned Villa a draw right at the death but keeper Arran Lee-Barrett - in inspired form - managed to deny with his right foot.
It was a frustrating first half for the claret and blues as they only really got going late on during the opening 45 minutes.
Their cause wasn't helped after Bradley Lewis was forced off early on with a hand injury, replaced by sub Kevin Toner.
Bolton took the lead on 18, Bolger rising high above the claret and blue defence to head home from a corner.
And Clough doubled the lead on 34. He connected with Conor Wilkinson's pull-back into the area to give the hosts an impressive lead.
But Cowans's men did show plenty of resilience in the closing stages of the half.
Jerrell Sellars was denied from close-range by keeper Lee-Barrett before Andras Stieber saw two low shots saved by the stopper again.
Daniel Johnson, meanwhile, saw a shot sail over the bar from just outside the box before the whistle blew for the interval.
Villa came out in frantic mood after the break, searching for a way back into the contest on a cold night up north.
Burke snatched a shot over the bar after a wondrous Johnson pass on 46 before Robinson failed to bundle home the ball from an equally adept Burke cross.
At this stage, Villa were swarming all over the hosts.
Danny O'Brien tried his luck from 25 yards on 55 but the keeper managed to get his body behind it.
Janoi Donacien was the latest to go close on 56 when his header flashed wide from a chipped cross from Robinson.
Clough seemingly ended the game as a contest on 68 when he dinked the ball home over the advancing Bradley Watkins.
But the visitors showed masses of spirit to give themselves a lifeline.
Burke made Lee-Barrett work on 75 with a fierce shot from 30 yards before finally making the breakthrough on 80.
Khalid Abdo's initial shot was saved but Burke kept his composure to thread cooly into the corner from a difficult angle.
Andre Green slotted wide with a brilliant opportunity on 82 before Johnson had an equally great chance to reduce the arrears on 85, lifting the ball over from close-range.
Robinson curled home Villa's second with his right foot on 90, with three minutes of stoppage time remaining.
And it was striker Robinson who almost earned Villa a share of the spoils in the final seconds of the game, his point-blank chance stopped incredibly by Lee-Barrett's outstretched right foot.
Villa U21s v Bolton U21s: Watkins, Webb, Kinsella, Donacien, Lewis [Toner], Stieber, Johnson, Burke, O'Brien [Abdo], Robinson, Sellars [Green]. Subs: Grant, Strain.