Gabriel Agbonlahor ended a run of almost a full year without a goal as he scored to earn Paul Lambert a victory against his former manager.
Aston Villa claimed a narrow win against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light as Martin O'Neill suffered defeat at the hands of his former club in Sunderland and former captain at Celtic in Paul Lambert.
Sunderland had almost gotten off to the perfect start, with Steven Fletcher putting the ball in the back of the net six minutes in after collecting Stephane Sessegnon's pass, but the effort was rightly ruled out for being offside.
It was a scrappy game of few chances, but Aston Villa eventually began to impose themselves. After Joe Bennett was forced to withdraw with an injury, Christian Benteke headed over from a corner before Gabriel Agbonlahor saw an effort blocked. Sunderland were struggling, with a Lee Cattermole effort from distance the closest they got to a breakthrough.
Eventually, the away side took a deserved lead, with Gabriel Agbolahor collecting a Benteke knock-down to poke the ball past Simon Mignolet from close range, ending a remarkable run of 28 games without a goal for the Villa striker - just two days short of a full calendar year.
Sunderland did not look like scoring all game, and Andreas Weimann came a lot closer than the home side to scoring the next goal, but Mignolet managed to smother his attempt. With Sunderland's creators Adam Johnson, Stephane Sessegnon and Sebastian Larsson all struggling for form, the home side continued to look as blunt as they have been in the past few weeks. A huge win for Paul Lambert, but Martin O'Neill must think of something soon to arrest Sunderland's alarming dip in form.