Middlesbrough won their first game in 14 visits to Villa Park and in the process inflicted Aston Villa's first home defeat in 13 games.
It was a well merited success carved out by a first-half headed goal from Boudewijn Zenden and a penalty after the break from Michael Ricketts.
Villa's defeat compounded their worst ever start to a Premiership campaign and was their most disappointing performance of the season.
Aston Villa's problems in attack were once again highlighted by a below par performance from Juan Pablo Angel and Marcus Allback.
The irony was that they were often shut out by the former Villa defender, Gareth Southgate and midfielder George Boateng. Neither put a foot wrong as Middlesbrough were often the more impressive in a below par game.
Middlesbrough, who were hammered 5-2 at home by Villa last season, played with more imagination than the Midlands club.
Juninho, making his first start since early September, created several smart moves and his skill shone like a beacon on an overcast afternoon.
Although teenager Peter Whittingham often caught the eye, the general Villa display was a huge disappointment as they failed miserably to test Boro goalkeeper, Carlo Nash.
The game turned sour for Villa in the 31st minute when Frank Queudrue put over an inswinging cross from the left which Zenden converted with a glancing header.
Villa's lack of urgency was their main failure and Middlesbrough prospered from their shock lead to step up a gear.
Bad marking by the Villa defence was also exposed by Boro and they sealed the game as early as the 47th minute.
Lee Hendrie lost possession near the half way line and, in attempting to redeem himself, impeded Zenden in the penalty area.
Referee Dermot Gallagher had no hesitation in awarding a spot-kick which the bulky Michael Ricketts casually slotted away with controlled power to the right of goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen.
Although Villa attempted to repair the damage with the introduction of Thomas Hitzlsperger and Darius Vassell they could make little impact against the well marshalled Boro defence in which Southgate reigned supreme.
Middlesborough sat back on their lead as they pushed hapless Villa into their first crisis under new manager, David O'Leary.
David O'Leary, Aston Villa's manager, afterwards admitted; "On this performance we are going to be involved in a relegation fight." "It was a disappointing performance and we gave away two bad goals. Middlesborough then set back to defend their lead." Middlesborough boss Steve McClaren said; "This was an important win for us and I am now looking to move foward with confidence." "Our form has been improving., In our last 9 games we've had 6 wins, scored 9 goals and kept 6 clean sheets." "The defence was the deadlock of our well meritted win over Villa."