A hat-trick from their star striker won the hosts a hugely important three points that moves them five clear of the relegation zone and above Newcastle on goal difference
A second-half hat-trick from top goalscorer Christian Benteke helped secured a vital three points for Aston Villa against relegation rivals Sunderland in an exhilarating clash at Villa Park.
A frenetic start to the game set the tone for the game as Ron Vlaar, Danny Rose and Andreas Weimann all scored within seven first-half minutes.
A fiery and fast-paced second half saw Sunderland reduced to ten men after Stephane Sessegnon received a straight red card for a poor challenge on Yacouba Sylla before Benteke netted a hat-trick in 17 minutes and Gabriel Agbonlahor wrapped up a thumping win late on.
Paul Lambert made one change from the Aston Villa side that lost 3-0 to Manchester United last weekend, with Yacouba Sylla replacing Charles N'Zogbia.
Meanwhile, Paolo Di Canio made two changes to the side that beat Everton 1-0, with Craig Gardner coming straight back into the starting line-up after his two-match ban at the expense of James McClean, and Phil Bardsley replaced Jack Colback.
With both teams finding themselves firmly placed in the fight to avoid relegation, it was no surprise that the game started in frantic fashion, with both defences fully involved in absorbing several early attacking movements.
Aston Villa side carved out the first real chance of the game when Benteke and Agbonlahor linked up wonderfully with a well-worked one-two on the edge of the area, but the Englishman was unable to convert as he dragged his shot narrowly past the left post.
The close call spurred on the Villa, and just a few minutes later their pressure had paid off as captain Vlaar which sailed through a sea of red and white shirts to hammer a 30-yard low drive past the helpless Mignolet.
Sunderland replied immediately, however, and equalised just one minute and 48 seconds later when silky smooth play from Graham and Rose set up the latter to fire in from close range.
And the frantic nature of the opening period wasn't over yet as Villa embarked on a swift counterattack after Matthew Lowton stole the ball off the advancing Sunderland midfield and unleashed a wonderful long ball to an unmarked Weimann on the edge of the box. The Austrian striker's first touch was exquisite as he found space to pass the ball into the far corner to regain his side’s lead.
The second half started in a similar fashion to the first, with the momentum behind Aston Villa, and they were duly rewarded nine minutes into the half when Benteke headed into an open goal after Agbonlahor's deflected shot had been parried into his path by Mignolet.
Just five minutes later, Benteke was on hand to head in once again, rising high above the visitors’ defence and nodding in Ashley Westwood's corner to put Villa 4-1 up and all but end any Sunderland hopes of initiating a comeback.
And those were duly extinguished when Sessegnon was dismissed for an unruly lunge on Sylla 20 minutes from time, and just a minute later Benteke picked up a stray touch from Carlos Cuellar to slot home from an acute angle to record his first hat-trick in Villa colours and this 18th goal of the season.
With Sunderland dead and buried, Agbonlahor took advantage of poor defending to round Mignolet and score his side's sixth with just a minute of normal time left to play, putting the game to bed and wrapping up a win that is as important as it was emphatic.