In retrospect Vassell's opening goal was the vital turning point of the game as City went from strength to strength and made a mockery of their away form this season as they recorded their first win of the season on the road.
Like Vassell, the Northern club have the Indian sign on Villa who have now failed to win any of their last ten games against City.
Any hopes of putting this bogey to rest were dismissed by a determined City side that surprisingly dominated the game to the surprise of themselves and manager Stuart Pearce.
Vassell may have sparked off City's revival but it was the individual skill of Sylvain Distin which left the lasting impression on the game.
He created Joey Barton's second goal and then took all the steam out of Villa with a brilliant individual 75th-minute goal to settle the match.
It was a lethargic display from Villa and sadly highlighted the problems that manager Martin O'Neill has papered over since his arrival.
City hardly operated as a team which had previously collected only one point from seven away games this season. They played with skill, pace and perception to tear Villa apart in a first half completely dominated by the Northern side.
With Villa quickly losing the midfield battle it was the skill of Georgios Samaras and Hatem Trabelsi which quickly came to the fore.
Stand-in goalkeeper Stuart Taylor quickly found himself under attack when Samaras created the first goal attempt, while Vassell, operating on the left, fired in a drive which the Villa keeper tipped around the post.
These were warning shots across Villa's bow as City assumed full control. It was, therefore, hardly a surprise when Vassell opened the scoring.
Trabelsi launched the cross which was turned on by Samaras to the lurking Vassell who hammered his shot past Taylor.
Vassell flashed a header just over the bar from yet another Trabelsi cross and, in the 33rd minute, Barton popped up to score his fourth goal of the season.
Distin advanced into Villa's half and produced a perfect defence-splitting pass to Samaras. The Greek player produced a cross to the near post where Barton squeezed the ball home.
Stilian Petrov emerged as Villa's most likely goalscorer. He raised the home team's hopes with a free-kick a minute before the break which cannoned off the crossbar and back into play.
Surprisingly O'Neill did not make any changes at half-time in a match which was a reality check in many respects as Villa hardly played like a team which had progressed into fifth spot.
City themselves dropped a defensive blanket to protect their commendable advantage and were only troubled by a weak effort from Petrov.
When City managed to break they were thwarted by Taylor who saved in succession from Bernardo Corradi and the ever-dangerous Vassell.
Villa were given brief encouragement when Gavin McCann unleashed a powerful 25-yard drive in the 66th minute only for Distin to dispel any hopes of a successful comeback by the hosts.
Distin gained possession in his own half, took a return pass from Samaras, and then raced through unchecked as he shrugged off a challenge from Liam Ridgewell before scoring what could be the goal of the season.