Nathaniel Clyne smashed in a late leveller to rescue a point for Southampton just as Villa were ready to clinch a first win in eight games.
Fraser Forster’s clanger had gifted Gabby Agbonlahor the opener with the Saints rarely at their fluid best.
They dominated possession but failed to regularly test goalkeeper Brad Guzan while Villa were left to rue Andi Weimann’s glaring miss at 1-0.
The point did at least lift Villa, who are without a win in eight games, up to 16th in the Premier League while Southampton stay second.
Saints manager Ronald Koeman believes his side can secure Champions League football this season but warned they’ll have to show more than they did last night.
“Of course we believe we can finish in the top four but we have to play better than tonight,” Koeman said.
The draw marked Paul Lambert’s 100th game in charge of Villa and he recalled Republic of Ireland defender Ciaran Clark and Jores Okore — Villa’s only two fit centre-backs — with Okore making his first appearance since suffering a serious knee injury in September 2013.
Alan Hutton was back after an ankle problem while Shane Long replaced the injured Steven Davis, out with a hamstring issue, in the Saints’ only change.
A subdued Villa Park was rarely woken from its slumber in the opening 20 minutes, aside from seeing Victor Wanyama sweep over from 18-yards and man of the match Clark producing a fine tackle to halt Long.
Villa were reliant on Agbonlahor’s pace, which worried Southampton, and the forward earned a free-kick after being tripped by Jose Fonte but Ashley Westwood wasted the chance.
But the striker’s efforts paid off on 29 minutes when Villa opened the scoring.
Lambert had joked he hoped his one-time Norwich loanee Forster would have a nightmare and the keeper obliged with a gift for Agbonlahor.
Clark’s long clearance should have been easily dealt with but Forster rushed out with Fonte struggling — only for Agbonlahor to beat him to the ball and fire into the empty net.
It came against the run of play but, tails up, Villa had breached the Southampton backline for the first time in seven-and-a-half hours.
At the other end, the Saints were yet to seriously test Guzan until he tipped Sadio Mane’s curling effort around the post on 37 minutes.
Southampton were almost 2-0 behind two minutes into the second half when Ryan Bertrand hacked Charles N’Zogbia’s goalbound effort away.
Weimann then wasted a golden chance to make the game safe with 12 minutes left when he broke from Southampton’s corner.
The Austrian found Agbonlahor and when he received the return pass, could only blaze over from 12 yards.
And Villa paid the price when the Saints’ levelled with nine minutes remaining. Bertrand got the better of Weimann and his left-wing cross was brilliantly dispatched by the inrushing Clyne from 16-yards.
ASTON VILLA: Guzan, Hutton, Okore, Clark, Cissokho, Cleverley, Westwood, Sanchez (Bent 74), N’Zogbia (Richardson 64), Agbonlahor, Weimann.
SOUTHAMPTON: Forster, Clyne, Fonte, Alderweireld, Bertrand, Wanyama, Schneiderlin, Tadic, Long (Cork 89), Mane (Mayuka 79),Pelle.
Referee: Phil Dowd.