ALBION suffered derby-day disappointment as Villa snatched victory thanks to goals in either half.
Stewart Downing snuck the hosts ahead in the 25th minute with Villa's first shot of the game and against the run of play.
It came just four minutes after Somen Tchoyi had crashed an effort off the bar.
The Baggies had the better of the play for the majority of the match - but met stubborn resistance in the shape of the claret-and-blue defence.
Emile Heskey doubled Villa's advantage in the 79th minute to give them a cushion, which proved just enough for Gerard Houllier's men.
Paul Scharner's last-minute header gave the Baggies late hope but the visitors' chances of taking something from the game disappeared when Jerome Thomas' last-gasp effort cleared the bar.
Marc-Antoine Fortuné made his first Barclays Premier League start in six games as he came in for the injured Peter Odemwingie (calf).
Youssouf Mulumbu returned from a two-game suspension but had to settle for a place on the bench.
Houllier made five changes to the Villa starting line-up as he looked to stop a run of three successive top-flight defeats.
The Baggies fired the first shot of the game in the third minute as Chris Brunt's right-wing corner dropped to Fortuné at the back post - but his effort lacked the pace or direction to beat Brad Friedel.
Brunt latched onto Graham Dorrans' defence-splitting pass in the 17th minute and let fly with a left-foot strike from just inside the box that sailed just wide of the far post.
Man-of-the-moment Tchoyi raced onto Gonzalo Jara's lofted ball down the right in the 21st minute and powered into the box before beating Stephen Warnock and James Collins to curl a left-foot strike off the crossbar.
The rebound just evaded Fortuné, who a minute later had Collins twisting and turning just inside the area before dragging a 15-yard strike just wide of the left-hand post.
Despite the Baggies' spell of pressure, it was the hosts who snatched a somewhat undeserved lead on 25. Dorrans lost possession to Marc Albrighton down the left and he nipped past Marek Cech before crossing to the near post. Ashley Young flicked the ball on past Scott Carson and Downing did well on the stretch to squeeze the ball home just inside the left-hand post.
Barry Bannan tricked his way past Dorrans and Gabriel Tamas on the edge of the box in the 33rd minute - but screwed his shot horribly wide.
Three minutes later, Villa, who had looked much more lively since their goal, threatened again when Young flicked on a long ball and Heskey managed to hold off Tamas before seeing his shot blocked by the Romania international.
In the final minute of the half, Scharner rose highest at the back post from Brunt's right-wing corner - but could only head wide.
The hosts could have killed the game off ten minutes into the second-half as Albrighton nipped in front of Cech from Downing's cross - but headed wide of the right-hand post when he should at least have hit the target.
Two minutes later, the Baggies could have levelled.
A neat one-two between Jara and Fortuné saw the Chile international square the ball for Morrison, who fired wide of the right-hand post from only 12 yards.
Young dispossessed Scharner in the 64th minute and raced to the right byline before fizzing the ball into the six-yard box, where Heskey failed to connect.
Tchoyi tried his luck on 75 and saw his 18-yard strike deflect inches past the left-hand post, with Friedel stranded.
Heskey did double Villa's advantage in the 79th minute as he stooped to nod home Albrighton's ball back into the box from close range.
Substitute Simon Cox found himself in space in the box in the final minute, but his goalbound strike was blocked by Collins' last-ditch challenge.
From the resultant Brunt corner, Scharner powered a header past sub Nigel Reo-Coker on the line to give the Baggies the glint of a chance of taking something from the game.
And they almost completed an amazing comeback when Thomas raced onto Ishmael Miller's ball in stoppage time and beat Eric Lichaj, before lifting his six-yard effort from an acute angle over Friedel - and the bar.
VILLA (4-4-1-1): Friedel; Lichaj, Collins, Cuellar, Warnock; Albrighton (Herd 90+2), Bannan (Reo-Coker 73), Hogg, Downing; A Young; Heskey (Delfouneso 84). Subs not used: Guzan (gk), Dunne, Pires, Carew.
ALBION (4-2-3-1): Carson; Jara (S Reid 87), Scharner, Tamas, Cech; Dorrans, Brunt; Tchoyi, Morrison (Miller 76), Thomas; Fortuné (Cox 86). Subs not used: Myhill (gk), Ibanez, Shorey, Mulumbu.
GOALS: VILLA - Downing (25), Heskey (79). ALBION - Scharner (90).
BOOKINGS: ALBION - Thomas (foul 60), Jara (foul 63).
REFEREE: M Halsey (Hertfordshire).
ALBION STARMAN: Jerome Thomas.
PIC: DERBY DUEL...Thomas skips past Albrighton