Aston Villa dropped into the bottom three of the Barclays Premier League for the first time in seven years as their former loan signing Phil Bardsley earned Sunderland a 1-0 victory at Villa Park.
Gerard Houllier's side slipped into the relegation zone on goal difference as a result of Wolves' shock victory over champions Chelsea at Molineux.
Villa had striker Emile Heskey sent off for violent conduct before Bardsley's decider and then Black Cats substitute Boudewijn Zenden was given his marching orders for two bookable offences.
The first chance fell to Sunderland midfielder Steed Malbranque after Carlos Cuellar failed to make contact with a deep cross from Bardsley.
Villa started to exert some pressure and Sunderland keeper Craig Gordon did well to finger-tip away a Stewart Downing free-kick under pressure. A fine pass from Villa skipper Stiliyan Petrov allowed Nigel Reo-Coker a run at goal but he was halted by Malbranque's challenge.
Sunderland were forced into a change after 38 minutes when David Meyler pulled up suddenly, slumped to the ground and had to be stretchered off. Zenden entered the action as his replacement.
Five minutes before half-time Downing did well to get to the by-line and shake off Zenden's challenge before sending a low ball across the box. Heskey seemed certain to score but, from three yards out, he shot against the crossbar.
Sunderland striker Darren Bent forced James Collins off the ball before rounding Brad Friedel, but Collins recovered to block on the line.
Zenden was yellow carded for bringing down the powerful Heskey but Villa were reduced to 10 men after 68 minutes when the former England frontman was sent off after he shoved Jordan Henderson in the face and was dismissed by referee Peter Walton.
With 10 minutes left Bardsley broke the deadlock with a low 25-yard drive after Zenden's free-kick had been blocked.Late on Zenden was sent off for a second bookable offence when he fouled Stiliyan Petrov.