Four-star Stoke leapfrog Villa
Stoke City's English striker Peter Crouch (R) celebrates their victory at the end of the English Premier League football match between Aston Villa and Stoke City at Villa Park in Birmingham, West Midlands, England, on March 23, 2014 - by Paul Ellis
Christian Benteke's early goal put the hosts 1-0 up early on at Villa Park but Stoke were 3-1 ahead at half-time after Peter Odemwingie, Peter Crouch and Steven Nzonzi all scored for the visitors.
After the break, Geoff Cameron set the seal on a comprehensive win for Mark Hughes' men by adding a fourth goal in the final minute of normal time.
Victory put Stoke on 37 points, just three short of the 40-point mark that usually assures a team of Premier League survival.
"We have been waiting some time for an away win," Stoke manager Mark Hughes told Sky Sports.
"We had a poor start but after that I thought we were excellent and showed real personality and desire on the ball," the former Manchester United, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Chelsea striker added.
"Today we had a cutting edge. Everyone is pulling in the same direction.
"We're on a good run, in a good position and can look upwards and achieve targets this season. We want to look back on this season with pride," added Hughes, looking to restore his managerial reputation after a brief and unsuccessful spell in charge of Queens Park Rangers.
"Since I came through the door been the players have been open to changing the way they play," explained Hughes, who has tried to rid Stoke of their reputation as a 'long-ball' team.
"They had to engage and commit to it and they have done. We're enjoying it at the moment."
Defeat was a huge let-down for a Villa side who just over a week earlier had beaten Premier League leaders Chelsea 1-0.
"The Chelsea game was totally different, the atmosphere and everything, and you come back down to earth again," said Villa manager Paul Lambert. "Maybe that game took a bit more out of them than we realised."
However, the Scot had no complaints about Sunday's result, saying: "We were second best if truth be known. We started well but it wasn't good enough. We didn't deserve to get anything from the game."
It took Villa just five minutes to open the scoring in front of the Birmingham club's own fans.
Fabian Delph broke free on the left before cutting the ball back to Benteke on the penalty spot. The Belgium forward, given time and space, powered the ball into the roof of the net with his left foot.
But two goals in five minutes saw Stoke turn the match on its head.
Towering England forward Crouch headed the ball perfectly into the path of strike partner Odemwingie and the former West Bromwich Albion forward burst between two defenders before stabbing the ball under advancing Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan in the 22nd minute.
Barely had Villa absorbed the impact of the equaliser then Stoke were ahead.
Erik Pieters held off Andreas Weimann down the left and sprinted clear before crossing to the waiting Crouch and the former Villa forward side-footed the ball into the corner.
Stoke then kept possession for an extended spell but, significantly, there was a tangible result to their neat play when Nzonzi scored their third goal three minutes before half-time.
Marko Arnautovic's through ball from the left did not look that dangerous but Villa's Nathan Baker failed to make proper contact and N'Zonzi's powerful shot from the edge of the box gave Guzan little chance.
The second half was a quieter affair but, in the 64th minute, Stoke almost scored again when Odemwingie unleashed a powerful, swerving, shot from 20 yards which Guzan, changing direction, did well to parry.
But the fourth goal Stoke had been threatening arrived in the 90th minute when more impressive wing play from Arnautovic saw the Austrian cut the ball back to Cameron, who scored from 10 yards out.