Burnley had their ballooning hopes of Premier League survival punctured by a 3-1 home defeat against Aston Villa on Saturday afternoon.
The hosts came into the game buoyed by three straight wins but it was Aston Villa that got off to a flying start. Emiliano Buendia collected the ball between Burnley's banks of four, sliding a perfectly weighted pass into the box for Danny Ings to nab a seventh-minute opener against his former employers.
Burnley responded well to their early deficit, firing off a flurry of shots as Wout Weghorst went close with a swipe after Dwight McNeil orchestrated a counter-attack. Villa's goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez crystallised the pressure he felt his side were under as he was warned about time-wasting as early as the 26th-minute.
However, Burnley's 4-4-2 struggled against Villa's two out-and-out strikers. With both fullbacks also pushed outrageously high up the pitch, Ings and Watkins combined to set Lucas Digne scampering to the byline, cutting the ball back to Buendia. Six claret shirts were within the width of the six-yard box between himself and the goal as Buendia coolly rolled in Villa's second goal with a slight deflection off the forest of legs.
McNeil squandered Burnley's clearest chance in the closing stages of the first half, robbing Ezri Konsa on the touchline but limply rolled his close-range effort into Martinez's gloves.
Trailing by two goals going into the interval, Burnley were dealt the sizeable blow of losing centre-back James Tarkowski within 120 seconds of the restart.
While his future absence may well be felt in the weeks to come, the impact of Tarkowski's injury was apparent less than five minutes after Kevin Long replaced the vice-captain. Lurking in the very area Tarkowski had been patrolling, a criminally unmarked Watkins thumped a header past Nick Pope to make it 3-0.
Villa eased through much of the second half against their deflated hosts but let the clean sheet slip in stoppage time. On his return from injury, Maxwel Cornet crisply earned his side a consolation goal as Villa dozed in transition, ensuring Burnley extended their scoring run against the Midlands outfit to 38 successive home league games.
1. Burnley (4-4-2)
GK: Nick Pope - 6/10 - Sharply off his line on a number of occasions but couldn't do much about either of Villa's precise finishes.
RB: Connor Roberts - 5/10 - Not enough communication with his nearest centre-back as Ings drifted into the gaping space between the pair to open the scoring.
CB: Nathan Collins - 5/10 - Posed a considerable threat in the opposition penalty box at set-pieces but failed to provide decisive impact in his own box.
CB: James Tarkowski - 5/10 - Nutmegged by Buendia's shot as Villa doubled their lead, the stand-in skipper wasn't always composed when jostling with Ollie Watkins before injury forced him off inside two minutes of the second half.
LB: Charlie Taylor - 4/10 - Got away with a nervy and under-hit headed back-pass which Pope helped him out with.
RM: Dwight McNeil - 6/10 - All of Burnley's threatening moments inevitably originated from his left boot but squandered a huge chance he created for himself.
CM: Jack Cork - 4/10 - Failed to exert much of an impact on proceedings.
CM: Josh Brownhill - 6/10 - Grew into the game as he began to pick out the foreheads of his teammates from dead ball scenarios.
LM: Aaron Lennon - 4/10 - Ushered to the fringes of the contest skulking on the left flank.
ST: Ashley Barnes - 6/10 - On his first start since September, Barnes was his familiar niggling self, repeatedly winning cheap fouls to give Burnley set-piece opportunities which unsettled Villa.
ST: Wout Weghorst - 5/10 - A willing runner, Weghorst didn't demonstrate the necessary composure to cap off the chance his movement created.
SUB: Kevin Long (47' for Tarkowski) - 3/10 - Utterly AWOL as Watkins had the freedom of Lancashire to nod in Villa's third.
SUB: Maxwel Cornet (66' for Lennon) - 6/10 - Belatedly got a rare touch of the ball to provide an impact that was far too late.
SUB: Erik Pieters (72' for Barnes) - N/A
2. Aston Villa (4-3-1-2)
GK: Emiliano Martinez - 7/10 - Aside from the shenanigans that earned his every touch a chorus of boos (which he seemed to revel in) Martinez was sharp and alert when tested.
RB: Matty Cash - 7/10 - Flying forward at every given opportunity, Cash pinned Taylor back into his own half.
CB: Ezri Konsa - 5/10 - Caught dawdling on the ball well out of position as his keeper had to bail him out in the first half.
CB: Tyrone Mings - 6/10 - Not entirely commanding when marshalling his backline against Burnley's aerial, set-piece assaults, Mings did get a whack on the head for his troubles when meeting a high ball.
LB: Lucas Digne - 7/10 - Provided a telling impact going forward but didn't shirk his defensive responsibilities.
CM: John McGinn - 6/10 - After an uncharacteristically subdued first half, McGinn burst into life with an overlapping run and perfectly arced cross onto Watkins' head for Villa's third.
CM: Calum Chambers - 6/10 - Sitting as the deepest midfielder, Chambers offered some lumbering ballast when Villa pushed their fullbacks forward.
CM: Douglas Luiz - 6/10 - Didn't take advantage of his advanced role with Chambers behind him, shovelling the ball around midfield without much fuss.
AM: Emiliano Buendia - 8/10 - Floating around the pitch, Buendia clinically exploited the devilish pockets of space between the lines he found.
ST: Danny Ings - 7/10 - The former Burnley striker sent an early dagger into the heart of his former side which wasn't soothed by his lack of a celebration.
ST: Ollie Watkins - 7/10 - A constant nuisance sprinting around the top of the pitch, Watkins' industry was rewarded with a gaping sight of goal he crisply finished off to hit double digits for the season once again.
SUB: Carney Chukwuemeka (68' for Chambers) - 6/10 - Pushing forward with a purpose to support Watkins in the box.
SUB: Ashley Young (74' for Ings) - 5/10
SUB: Philippe Coutinho (79' for Buendia) - N/A
Source : 90min