Richard Dunne's own goal handed Sunderland a first Barclays Premier League victory in six attempts as Aston Villa were made to pay for missed chances as they lost 1-0 at Stadium of Light.
Dunne turned Steed Malbranque's 25th-minute cross past goalkeeper Brad Friedel to ensure the points remained on Wearside and end the home side's run of five successive league draws.
But Villa would have left the north-east, where they lost 6-0 to Newcastle on their last visit, with something to show for their efforts had striker Emile Heskey not passed up a glorious second-half chance.
Stewart Downing had earlier hit the woodwork and substitute Marc Albrighton forced a good save from keeper Simon Mignolet as the visitors, who had won on their last three visits to the Stadium of Light, staged a late fightback.
However, the Black Cats' resilience, with Titus Bramble once again a rock at the back, provided the foundation for just a second league victory of the campaign in front of a crowd of 41,506.