Leeds United slipped closer to the Premiership relegation trapdoor but it needed a hotly disputed penalty converted by Juan Pablo Angel to send them tumbling towards a seventh successive defeat.
Eddie Gray's side looked to have survived a first half onslaught in which Villa twice hit the crossbar and had an effort cleared off the line.
But in injury–time referee Uriah Rennie outraged the Leeds players by pointing to the spot after Didier Domi was adjudged to have fouled Darius Vassell whose had lost control of the ball.
Up stepped Angel to stroke home his 17th goal of the season and then Ronny Johnsen rubbed salt into Leeds wounds with his first ever goal for Villa.
Villa deserved their overall success and Nolberto Solano impressed on the right flank on his home debut for David O'Leary's side.
Lee Hendrie also looked more comfortable in a central midfield role after suspensions to Gavin McCann and Peter Whittingham brought him off the flank.
Angel also looked sharp after O'Leary had taken the decision to relegate Peter Crouch to the substitutes' bench despite his two goals at Leicester last weekend.
Leeds, boosted by the return from compassionate leave of Mark Viduka, showed plenty of fight and Jermaine Pennant, James Milner and their man of the match Dominic Matteo impressed.
But they need to start finding the winning formula sooner rather later if they are not to be cut adrift at the bottom of the table.
Thomas Hitzlsperger had the first chance inside 60 seconds for Villa when he collected a pass from Vassell on the edge of the penalty area but hooked the shot across goal.
Villa dominated the early stages with some neat one–touch football but in the 17th minute the woodwork came to their rescue in the first meaningful attack by the visitors.
Milner got on the end of a right–wing centre from Pennant and his header beat Thomas Sorensen but cannoned off the crossbar.
It was Villa's turn to rattle the crossbar with midfielder Hendrie beating Paul Robinson all ends up with a dipping effort from the edge of the area after 25 minutes.
Then veteran Leeds full–back Gareth Kelly was perfectly placed just after the half hour mark to clear a header off the line from Gareth Barry who had met a corner from Solano.
Robinson, whose move to Tottenham had fallen through on Monday, did well to tip a close range header from Solano onto the crossbar after he had connected with Barry's pin–point centre.
Villa skipper Olof Mellberg became the first player to be yellow–carded after 40 minutes for showing dissent towards a referee's assistant.
But the half ended in controversy with Rennie adjudging that Domi had brought down Vassell in the area.
Up stepped Angel, fit again after suffering an injury to his leg in the first leg of the Carling Cup semi–final with Bolton, and he sent Robinson the wrong way with his spot–kick.
Leeds had to make sure their anger at Rennie's penalty award was channelled in the right direction as they came out for the second half and it needed an alert Sorensen to deny the visitors the chance of an equaliser.
Viduka was on–side and looked favourite to win the race with Sorensen for the ball deep in the Villa half but the ex Sunderland 'keeper was determined to win the race and got there ahead of the Australian.
Then after 59 minutes Villa centre–back Johnsen, who has replaced the injured Dion Dublin, doubled Villa's lead.
Vassell was brought down on the left of the area and Solano's inswinging free–kick picked out Johnsen whose glancing header flew past Robinson into the corner of the net – although Eirik Bakke may also have had a touch.
Leeds, to their credit, refused to throw in the towel and Viduka came close to reducing the arrears with a powerful drive which hit the top of the crossbar but Villa held on to press their claims for a UEFA Cup spot.
Aston Villa 2 Leeds United 0
Angel pen 45, Johnsen 59
Half-time: 1-0 Attendance: 39,171
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