Vital victory lifts Villa
Christian Benteke and Charles N'Zogbia combined to lift Aston Villa out of the Premier League relegation zone with a priceless 2-1 victory over West Ham at Villa Park.
Benteke showed no sign of nerves as he rolled home from the penalty spot to break the deadlock with 16 minutes to go after N'Zogbia had been tripped in the area by Mark Noble.
And the former Wigan and Newcastle man then stepped up to curl home an outstanding free-kick to double the advantage for Paul Lambert's men four minutes later.
There was a nervy finish in store for the home supporters as Ashley Westwood could only loop a header from Joe Cole's dangerous curling cross over Brad Guzan and into his own net with three minutes to go.
And in the last of four added minutes, the Villa goalkeeper was called into action to make a crucial save, blocking a close range shot from Kevin Nolan at his near post.
The victory sees Villa climb to 17th in the Premier League table, pushing Reading down into the bottom three but only one point adrift of the Midlands side.
The first half at Villa Park was an instantly forgettable affair, with the only incident of note coming in the opening exchanges, when Andreas Weimann produced one of the misses of the season in only the second minute.
Benteke fired in a shot from range, which Jussi Jaaskelainen failed to deal with, and it looked as though all Weimann had to do was roll the ball into the gaping goal, but he somehow fired wide of the target to widespread disbelief.
That incident seemed to shake the confidence of the young Austrian, and it was no surprise when he was replaced as part of a double change in the 63rd minute, with Darren Bent joining the fray.
The England international has struggled for opportunities this season, but he was immediately into the action, although perhaps not as he had expected, clearing off the line from Andy Carroll following Matt Taylor's corner.
Sam Allardyce's side looked to hit Carroll whenever possible, but the England international was well marshalled in the main by Ciaran Clark, who also produced two crucial clearances from under his own bar in a much-improved second half.
All the real drama was reserved for the closing 16 minutes, with Benteke and N'Zogbia putting the Holte End in full voice despite the dramatic conclusion, with Villa recording their first Premier League victory since the 3-1 win away to Liverpool on 15 December.