The game of two halves lives. Manchester City were mugged in the second half by opponents they could barely have recognised from the first.
At risk of another cliche it was quite the Jekyll and Hyde transformation, with Villa mannered and meek before the interval yet aggressive enough afterwards to monster City after twice falling behind. You would never have guessed from the most dull and one-sided of first halves that a five-goal thriller was about to unfold, but it did.
With an ease and economy of effort that must have surprised even themselves, Villa waited until they were 2-1 down after an hour before securing their first home win of the season with two goals in three minutes.
First Leandro Bacuna produced a stunning free-kick to leave Joe Hart flat-footed and level the scores after Matija Nastasic had fouled Andreas Weimann just outside the area. Then before the noise and excitement had died down Villa struck again with a classic route one ploy, Brad Guzan's quick clearance down the middle catching too many City players too far upfield to leave Weimann room to steal in from Libor Kozak's flick and walk the ball round Hart. By the end Villa were pressing for more and City were being forced back, which in terms of what had gone before was complete role reversal.
"I wasn't particularly worried at half time," Paul Lambert said. "City might have had 68% of the possession but Brad hadn't had too many saves to make. I'm really proud of the way we hit back. We've had a hell of a tough start to the season but we've come through it."
This was not the City that bamboozled their neighbours last week with intricate passing and fleetness of foot. Evidently saving his more mercurial performers for Bayern Munich in midweek, Manuel Pellegrini stuck his two big men up front and attempted to roll over Aston Villa with good, old-fashioned 4-4-2.
City spent most of the first half camped in the Villa half, with the home side defending ever deeper until their would-be wing-backs ended up giving width only to a flat back five. Time after time Samir Nasri hoisted crosses from one wing and James Milner from the other, yet none found Edin Dzeko or Alvaro Negredo in front of goal.
The problem with Villa's formation was that it did not leave enough of a presence in midfield to prevent Yaya Touré and Fernandinho constantly returning the ball. Pinned back on their own line there was some fairly desperate Villa defending and an endless succession of City corners before the visitors took the lead with the last one of the first half, Touré sidefooting nonchalantly home from close to the penalty spot after Nasri's corner from the left came through to find him unmarked.
That will have upset Lambert, though like everyone else he must have seen that a goal was inevitable, unless City were going to spend the whole afternoon fluffing their lines. The goal obliged Villa to chase the game instead of doggedly hoping their luck would last, and once they began to attack it took just five second-half minutes to find a way through City's defence. There was a suggestion of offside as Karim El Ahmadi accepted Bacuna's probing ball forward, but the flag stayed down and it was a simple matter for the forward to beat Hart from the six-yard line.
Hopes that a contest might break out sank again when Nasri swung in another corner from the left and Dzeko got enough of his head to it to restore City's lead.
Villa's only complaint about that would have been that Nasri was lucky to still be on the field after picking up just a booking for a kicking out at Bacuna. Negredo almost extended City's advantage but a terrific volley was kept out by Guzan, before Nasri was withdrawn for his own good and Villa were subjected to the pace of Jesús Navas, whose first cross from the right almost produced a third goal.
City thought they were cruising then, they even began to introduce Stevan Jovetic, just about the last thing they were expecting was Villa to score twice in three minutes. But that's football. Lambert was almost as entertaining when it was suggested the winning goal was an example of long-ball football. "That wasn't a planned move, it was just Brad's vision," he said.
"He saw the chance and went for it. He's got a hell of a kick on him."