Aston Villa ran out 3-0 winners away to in-form Derby County thanks to late goals from John McGinn, Tammy Abraham and Conor Hourihane.
Three strikes within the space of ten second-half minutes ensured Villa came away from Pride Park with all three points, issuing a bold statement to the rest of the Sky Bet Championship.
McGinn started the late onslaught, heading home a tremendous cross from second-half substitute Yannick Bolasie.
He was then the provider for Abraham, his deft flick floated past home goalkeeper Scott Carson and doubled the lead.
Hourihane rounded off the scoring with the pick of the goals; his delicious, curling free kick left Carson helpless and sent the travelling Villa supporters into dreamland.
It was fifth versus 14th coming into the game, yet the league positions had no bearing on the football on show. Villa were by far the better side and had it not been for a catalogue of missed chances, the visitors would have been victorious by a greater margin. Villa look like a completely transformed side under the leadership of new manager Dean Smith.
Derby, who came into the fixture unbeaten in their previous six league games rarely threatened Orjan Nyland’s goal, with the Villa shot-stopper enjoying a reasonably quiet afternoon. Harry Wilson came closest for the Rams, but his curling left-foot effort was tipped away well by the Norwegian.
The Derby fans voiced their frustration as the game aged at the visitors’ dominance. The home side failed to gain a foothold, which played into the hands of the energetic visitors, orchestrated by the pressing of the tireless McGinn.
An away crowd of greater than 3,000 were in fine voice throughout and their cheers turned into ‘ole’s’, as they saw their side turn on the style and effortlessly tease the home side, knocking the ball around with swagger.
This win means that Villa will head into ‘second-city derby’ against rivals Birmingham City full of confidence off the back of a complete away performance.
For Frank Lampard’s side, it’s a home league defeat for the first time since August, but despite the result, they remain in the play-off places.
By Tom McGrath at Pride Park