The Dutchman scored twice as Tottenham Hotspur came from behind again to beat a lively Aston Villa side who had taken the lead but lost their momentum once Emile Heskey went off injured 10 minutes before half-time.
Tottenham Transfer TalkThis was Gerard Houllier's first defeat as Villa manager, but a valuable victory for Spurs, who moved back into the top five.
It was an enthralling match, full of end-to-end attacking football, and the Dutch midfielder encapsulated all that was good about the game with another superb display.
Tom Huddlestone was drafted in as an emergency centre back for Tottenham, who had five defenders injured, and Heskey looked like he fancied his chances against the makeshift Spurs defence.
The former England striker was lively before limping off in the 35th minute, and created the opening goal. Sebastien Bassong dithered on the ball near the right-hand touchline, allowing Heskey to steal it away, cut to the byline and deliver a low cross for Marcus Albrighton to slide in at the far post.
It was no less than Villa deserved for their bright start, winning the battle in midfield, attacking at pace and defending resolutely. Stephen Warnock had a stinging drive blocked by Jermaine Jenas and John Carew, Heskey's replacement, shot high over the bar from a good position.
Spurs took a while to get going, unable to get Gareth Bale into the game down the left, and when the Welshman did get the ball, he was taken out with a couple of hefty challenges that escaped censure from referee Mark Clattenburg.
Jenas had a fierce drive blocked, Roman Pavlyuchenko flicked a Bale cross wide of the far post, and Van der Vaart had a drive tipped away at the end of a delightful five-man passing move.
The Dutchman was not to be denied for long, however. From the resulting corner in stoppage time, the ball was cleared to Pavlyuchnko to cross from the right. Peter Crouch headed back across goal, and Van der Vaart leapt high at the far post to direct his header into the roof of the net for the equaliser.
Harry Redknapp replaced the battered Pavlyuchenko with Aaron Lennon at half-time, and the winger set up another chance for Van der Vaart, only for Stilyan Petrov to make a last-ditch tackle.
Moments later it was Richard Dunne's turn to make a vital block, throwing himself in front of the ball as Van der Vaart shot from 15 yards. It was end to end stuff.
Petrov almost broke through but was denied by Bassong, and then had a long-range shot comfortably saved by Heurelho Gomes, and Nigel Reo-Coker shot well wide.
Albrighton almost scored again, in the 67th minute, as he slid in at the far post and just failed to make contact with Ashley Young's teasing cross.
Crouch should have put Tottenham ahead moments later but headed over the bar from point-blank range after Huddlestone had flicked on a corner from Luka Modric.
Van der Vaart then scored his second with a world-class finish. Once again the ball came to him via the head of Crouch, who knocked down Lennon's cross. Van der Vaart saw Dunne sliding in, flicked the ball past him with the deftest of touches, and rifled his shot past Brad Friedel from close range.
Spurs were rampant while Villa were deflated, and should have been reduced to 10 men when James Collins cynically hacked down Lennon as he ran in on goal.
The referee decided it was only a yellow card offence, and Collins survived, but Villa could find no way back and Spurs held on for a hard-fought victory.