Gabriel Agbonlahor's first Barclays Premier League goal of the season was enough to see off shot-shy Sunderland as Aston Villa ruined former boss Martin O'Neill's day with a 1-0 win.
The striker fired home from close range 12 minutes after the break to claim just a second league victory of the season for the midlanders on an afternoon when the Black Cats mustered only a single notable effort on target, and that six minutes from time.
It was no more than Villa, who headed north without former Sunderland striker Darren Bent, deserved after turning in a display which belied their lowly position with striker Christian Benteke bullying the home defence and Barry Bannan enjoying plenty of space in midfield.
The Black Cats had the ball in the net after just five minutes when Steven Fletcher, the only Sunderland player to have scored a league goal so far this season, lifted the ball over the advancing Brad Guzan from Stephane Sessegnon's through-ball, although he did so from an offside position.
But from that point onwards, the visitors settled and largely dominated possession with Bannan and Ashley Westwood making the most of the space they were afforded in the middle of the field to bring the pacy Agbonlahor and the combative Benteke into play.
The Belgium international headed a 13th minute Bannan corner over and then looped another into compatriot Simon Mignolet's hands nine minutes later.
Sunderland might have taken the lead on the half hour when Sessegnon picked out Adam Johnson wide on the right and he pulled the ball back for Lee Cattermole to curl a shot just over with keeper Guzan rooted to the spot.
There was at least a greater sense of urgency from Sunderland as the second half unfolded, and Sebastian Larsson headed over after reacting smartly when Guzan only just got his fingertips to Bardsley's 53rd minute cross.
But it was Villa who took the lead four minutes later as Benteke once again climbed high above Phil Bardsley at the far post to knock down Matt Lowton's right wing cross into the six-yard box and Agbonlahor pounced ahead of Carlos Cuellar to volley into the roof of the net.
Cattermole came close to snatching a point when he took aim from distance with 84 minutes gone, but Guzan, who was initially wrong-footed, saved at the second attempt to ensure his side left Wearside with the points despite substitute Fraizer Campbell heading just wide in injury time.