The hosts had twice fought back to level only for former Leeds United player Fabian Delph to score a cracking winner for Villa, who extended their unbeaten run in the Premier League to five matches.

Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino had to hand a rare start to third choice 'keeper 21-year-old Paulo Gazzaniga -- injuries to Artur Boruc and Kelvin Davis ruling them out -- and the Argentinian was picking the ball out of his net after a quarter of an hour.

It was rough justice on the hosts as they had barely allowed Villa a touch but had failed to turn their pressure into a goal and were hit by a counterattack and a fine goal by Gabriel Agbonblahor.

Saints, though, were far from deflated by conceding that goal and they might have equalised on the half-hour mark, Jay Rodriguez forcing a fine save out of Brad Guzan.

Rodriguez, who won his first cap for England last month in the friendly against Chile, did get the ball in the net three minutes into the second half as his header from Nathaniel Clyne's cross powered past Guzan.

The hosts should have got a second shortly afterwards as Pablo Daniel Osvaldo's deft backheel looked to have beaten the impressive Guzan, but the American got down well to save.

No sooner had that happened than Villa regained the lead as Libor Kozak headed in Karim El Ahmadi's superb cross -- the scorer's reward was to be immediately replaced by Belgian striker Christian Benteke, who had been left on the bench after failing to score in the past seven games.

The Saints, though, showing the huge character that has symbolised their impressive Premier League campaign thus far, levelled again as Osvaldo was on hand to head home after England striker Rickie Lambert had headed across goal to set the Italian up.

However, the previously rock-solid Southampton defence -- who had only conceded 10 goals in the previous 13 Premier League games -- allowed Delph the freedom to run at them and then unleash a superb shot from 25 yards to restore the visitors' lead for good.