Aston Villa have been toothless at home for much of this season but Paul Lambert's side picked an opportune time to cut loose before their own supporters and demonstrate their powers of recovery. Two goals down inside nine minutes, Villa fought back to record their first victory over their West Midlands rivals in seven attempts and, more importantly, lift themselves into the top half of the table, eight points clear of the relegation zone.
Christian Benteke scored the crucial winning goal, the Belgium international converting a penalty after Diego Lugano, who endured a miserable evening, grappled with the Villa striker in the area. Mark Clattenburg, the referee, was perfectly positioned to point to the spot and Benteke nonchalantly did the rest, rolling home his third goal in three games.
It was the final blow in a remarkable game that saw Villa win in the league here for only the third time this season and score half as many goals in 64 minutes as they had managed in their previous 11 home matches. West Bromwich Albion contributed to the spectacle and to their own downfall in a game littered with mistakes and studded by a couple of cracking goals. The only surprise was that Villa and Albion, after sharing six first-half goals, produced only one more after the restart.
For Albion, who have won only one of their last 13 league matches, it was a night to forget. As well as surrendering a two-goal lead, Albion lost the services of Nicolas Anelka, who limped off in the first half with a badly gashed knee and is out of Sunday's home game against Liverpool. On this evidence Luis Suárez and Daniel Sturridge will be rubbing their hands at the prospect of coming up against Albion's defence. "It is incredible to score three goals away and get no points," said Pepe Mel, Albion's head coach.
Lambert, in contrast, was euphoric. "Two-nil down in any game after nine minutes is tough but in a derby game it doubles because of the importance to the crowd. But the turnaround was absolutely fantastic – what a performance that was," he said.
The deluge of first-half goals started with Chris Brunt putting Albion ahead with a glorious 30-yard strike that arrowed beyond Brad Guzan. With only nine minutes on the clock Albion had a second. Brunt was involved again, this time taking a quick free-kick that released James Morrison, whose low cross was turned into his own net by Delph.
Villa needed a quick response and they got one when the impressive Andreas Weimann, capitalising on Lugano's poor header, lifted the ball over the stranded Ben Foster. Bacuna then hauled Villa level in farcical circumstances when the Dutchman, with the goal at his mercy, somehow managed to slice Matthew Lowton's centre up into the air with his right boot and into the net off his head. Albion had completely lost their way by that point and it was no surprise when Villa grabbed a third. Delph, showing some neat footwork, turned Steven Reid inside out before thumping a shot into the roof of the net.
Benteke should have made it 4-2 but was denied by Foster and the significance of that moment became clear 60 seconds later when Youssouf Mulumbu, running on to Morrison's neat pass, beat Guzan from close range. Albion had a wonderful chance to go in front again shortly after the restart but Lugano, unmarked at the far post, headed Brunt's free-kick wide. Nine minutes later the Uruguayan endured another moment to forget in his own area, when he was penalised for tangling with Benteke.
To compound Lugano's misery he was booked for protesting angrily at Clattenburg's refusal to award Albion a penalty later in the game, when the defender felt he was pulled back by Ciaran Clark. "For me it is was the same as in the other box but the referee is the boss," Mel said.