Collins effort enough for Villa
James Collins eased Aston Villa's relegation worries with a first-half strike to secure a 1-0 victory over Newcastle in the Barclays Premier League clash at Villa Park.
The Welsh international defender headed home an Ashley Young free-kick midway through the first half to give Villa revenge for a 6-0 mauling at the hands of the Magpies at St James' Park in August.
More importantly, the victory lifted Gerard Houllier's side five points clear of the bottom three, with six games remaining.
Villa were relieved to hang on for the victory after dropping more points - 23 - from winning positions than any other Premier League team this season.
The game was not a classic but the result rather than the performance was crucial given Villa's current predicament.
After 24 minutes Collins' glancing header flew past goalkeeper Steve Harper into the far corner of the net for his third goal of the campaign.
Young had a shot deflected wide after finding plenty of space 20 yards out, then a goalbound header from Richard Dunne was blocked from the resulting corner by the influential Young.
Stewart Downing delivered an inviting cross after skipping past the challenge of Danny Simpson but Darren Bent could not keep his header down. And Bent had the ball in the net a minute before half-time but was ruled offside.
Villa were still searching for the second goal and Collins had a goalbound header cleared from a Young corner. Stiliyan Petrov was booked after bringing down Joey Barton, who was then yellow carded for a challenge on Villa substitute Nigel Reo-Coker.
Brad Friedel clung on to a Peter Lovenkrands header and then blocked a low drive from the same player in injury-time.