He showed former mentor Shay Given that Newcastle are in good hands with a splendid late save.
The Italian left-back seems to have really found his feet in English football and is a force to be reckoned with in attack and defence.
The Magpies skipper will pick up his north-east Footballer of the Year award on Sunday night but he won't be in the best of moods because he was at fault for Villa's goal.
He found it difficult to keep up with Darren Bent and Robbie Keane thanks to their superior mobility but coped well with long balls.
The only time he looked likely to get to grips with Charles N'Zogbia was when he pulled the French winger back on the halfway line.
They really missed him when he went off on a stretcher after bravely playing a crucial role in Ba's opener.
He might look better as a holding midfielder than he does as a defender but that is not really saying much because he looked peripheral after a promising start.
A real unsung hero, the former Liverpool midfielder just seems to be getting better and better in the playmaking role he relished in the absence of the suspended Yohan Cabaye.
If only he could play with his head up a bit more, then he would pose a much greater threat down the wing as he showed when he set up Cisse's goal.
The Senegalese striker showed new boy Papiss Cisse how it's done as he was a handful for the Villa defence and recorded his 16th goal this season.
When the luckless striker limped off early doors it was impossible not to feel he won't start another game for a long time.
The former Newcastle keeper was given a standing ovation by the Toon Army but that was as good as it got for the Irishman who was let down by poor defending on both goals.
The chances of him regaining a place in the England squad ahead of Euro 2012 look increasingly remote as he looked vulnerable.
It looked as though the Scotland international had the measure of Jonas Gutierrez until the Argentine crossed for Cisse's winner.
There may have been plenty of eye-catching interceptions but he was at fault for both Newcastle goals as he failed to deal with Newcastle's Senegalese strikeforce.
The former Rangers centre-back appeared to be rock solid at the heart of the Villa defence but was caught ball-watching when Cisse struck the winner.
After a bright start, it all appeared a bit too much for the young defensive midfielder as Newcastle got into their stride. His influence waned but he stuck to it and almost equalised late on.
Newcastle fans must have breathed a sigh of relief when he was taken off in the second half because he had set up Keane's goal and always looked too good for Simpson.
The Villa skipper did his best to kept things ticking along for his team but struggled to influence proceedings and lacked creativity.
He pressed the self-destruct button with a rant apparently aimed at manager Alex McLeish and failed to return after his half-time cup of tea amid reports of a tunnel bust-up with Alan Pardew.
Surely Villa owner Randy Lerner has to find a way to keep him on loan from LA Galaxy now he has three goals to his credit this term and looks Premier League class.
To the delight of a baying Toon Army, little went right for the former Sunderland attacker who was probably guilty of trying too hard.
- 35 R. Elliot
- 31 S. Ferguson
- 15 D. Gosling
- 10 H. Ben Arfa
Did his bit with a late cameo.
As debuts go they could not get much better than this thanks to his brilliant goal.
The Frenchman showed signs that he will win over his Tyneside doubters with a determined display.
- 22 B. Guzan
- 30 E. Lichaj
- 32 N. Baker
He worked his socks off but failed to give Villa the cutting edge that Ireland is capable of providing.
He failed to make an impact.
McLeish played into Newcastle hands by sending on the veteran target man who struggled to get into the game.
- 26 A. Weimann