In beating ten-men Blackburn Rovers, they progressed into the fourth round of the FA cup for only the third time in nine seasons, while they drew first blood in the first of three cup games in January against Blackburn
Villa emerged as winners after first-half goals from young Nathan Delfouneso and Carlos Cuellar, but made hard work of their success after Rovers had El Hadji Diouf sent off before Nikola Kalinic pulled back a 55th minute goal.
The game was sealed two minutes from time when substitute John Carew, who was fouled by Gael Givet, converted a penalty.
Both teams made numerous changes. Villa had six compared to their midweek defeat against Liverpool, while Sam Allardyce had no less than nine new faces in his line-up including 17 year-old central defender Phil Jones.
He was opposed by Delfouneso who had a glorious opportunity as early as the second minute to put Villa ahead.
A pacey corner from the lefty by Ashley Young was nudged goalwards from only three yards away but the ball went straight to goalkeeper Jason Brown.
The young striker, highly-rated by manager Martin O'Neill, made no mistake in the 12th minute when he put Villa ahead.
Fabian Delph began the move with a long pass from the centre circle out to Ashley Young on the left and Delfouneso headed past Paul Robinson's deputy Brown from around the six-yard line for his first goal of the season.
Blackburn were caught stranded in Villa's half in the 21st minute. Nigel Reo-Coker collected a loose ball and sent Ashley Young clear but, with only Brown to beat, he shot straight at the keeper.
The scores should have been level in the 31st minute when Reo-Coker needlessly conceded a penalty when he pulled back Steven Reid.
Goalkeeper Brad Guzan, who earlier this season saved no less than five penalties against Sunderland in the Carling Cup, was again Villa's hero when the American dived to his left to push out David Dunn's spot-kick.
It was another cross from Ashley Young which led to Villa's second goal in the 38th minute.
Michel Salgado conceded a free-kick on Stephen Warnock which earned him a yellow card and from Young's set-piece, Cuellar headed low into the net.
Rovers slipped deeper into trouble four minutes before the interval when El-Hadji crashed Habib Beye into the corner flag and received a straight red card from referee Howard Webb.
Villa only had themselves to blame for not killing off the opposition. Emile Heskey wasted a good opportunity of increasing Villa's lead five minutes into the second and it was an expensive miss as Rovers bravely battled back into contention when Kalinic forced home a Morten Gamst Pedersen free-kick.
At this point in the game Villa were far too casual and lacking the services of Delph in this period kept their fans on tenterhooks until Carew converted his late penalty.