As they celebrated their success over a Sunderland outfit whose shuddering halt to their mini-revival included a red card for Stephane Sessegnon, the home fans wasted no time in taunting Paolo Di Canio, who, when he came here with Swindon earlier this season, indicated Villa were on their way down.
PFA Young Player of the Year nominee Benteke might have added the second-half gloss but the touchpaper to a thrilling evening had been lit by a pair of memorable strikes from two players who would have had the longest odds to score first.
Ron Vlaar fired Villa ahead with a fine strike before Danny Rose hauled Sunderland level. Rose’s goal means 19 games they have gone now since their last Premier League clean sheet, which doesn’t leave Paul Lambert having to look far for the reasons why his side have been in such a precarious position for so long.
Yet for all their faults, Lambert’s youngsters have so much character.
Andreas Weimann put Villa back in front after being found with a crossfield pass from Matthew Lowton.
Ten minutes into the second period, Villa had a third as Simon Mignolet was deceived by Agbonlahor’s piledriver and Benteke, onside, was all alone to nod the rebound into an empty net.
And he had only just got started on his evening’s work as he rose above Carlos Cueller to steer home a far post header before driving his third past a shellshocked Mignolet. In between, Sessegnon was dismissed for a tackle that flattened Yacouba Sylla and left Di Canio raging.
Sunderland’s misery complete in the final minute as Gabriel Agbonlahor raced round Mignolet to end the rout.
ASTON VILLA: Guzan, Lowton, Vlaar, Baker, Bennett, Westwood, Delph, Sylla, Weimann, Benteke (Bent 79), Agbonlahor.
SUNDERLAND: Mignolet, Bardsley, O’Shea, Cuellar, Rose, Larsson (McClean 61), N’Diaye, Gardner (Vaughan 86), Johnson, Sessegnon, Graham (Mandron 85).
Referee: Lee Probert (Wiltshire).