It was a nervy start to the game from the home team with particularly poor passing from Sylla leading to a clogged midfield. The visitors had a few half-chances inside the opening ten minutes but ex-Villan Gardner couldn’t find a team-mate after he chested the ball past Guzan then Sessegnon failed to find Graham.
Agbonlahor had a great chance to open the scoring in the 26th minute but somehow struck wide.
Five minutes later, Villa did indeed have the lead, thanks to our skipper, Vlaar, who carried the ball from the centre circle before belting it low past Mignolet from 30 yards.
A mere minute after Vlaar had netted his first goal for the home side, he was clearly too shocked about scoring to get back to his day job of defending and his error allowed Rose to net his first for Sunderland, picking up a pass from Graham and bowing it past Guzan.
Six minutes later, Villa regained the lead: Lowton picked out the unmarked Weimann with a perfect pass that Weimann measured well before slipping the ball home.
After the break, the boys in claret and blue kept their feet on the gas and, with ten minutes played, Benteke seemed to be made of elastic as he stooped to head the ball past Mignolet after the keeper had parried a shot from Agbonlahor.
On the hour mark, Big Ben-teke struck again, rising to head home Westwood’s curling corner.
Weimann looked set to score his second but Mignolet made a fine save and former Villan Cuellar then chopped the ball off the line, averting the danger.
Just as things seemed like they couldn’t get any worse for DiCanio’s side, Sessegnon was given his marching orders for a dangerous tackle on Sylla.
Adding to the mauling of the Black Cats just two minutes later, Benteke found Agbonlahor’s deflected flick and squeezed the ball in at the near post, in the process becoming the first Villa player since good old Gabby way back in August 2008 to score a Premier League hat-trick.
There was time for one more and this time the scorer was the industrious Agbonlahor, who rounded the keeper and sealed a memorable night for Lambert’s Lions.
Benteke will no doubt hog the headlines after his hat-trick heroics but it was a fine team performance, with the players fighting fearlessly to give Villa a genuine chance of avoiding the drop, having reduced their god-awful goal difference considerably and putting themselves five points clear of the drop zone.
I am sure Paul Lambert will allow himself a sigh of relief and a stiff drink tonight. The grinning gaffer was quick to heap praise on all his players and the long-suffering fans who he labelled ‘unbelievable’ – but I am sure even he will agree that they weren’t quite as unbelievable as the final score…