Ashley Westwood scored an unfortunate own goal to pile the pressure on Villa, but they held out to claim an invaluable win.
You can read how events unfolded with Sports Mole's minute-by-minute coverage below.
Good afternoon! Thank you for joining Sports Mole for today's match between the Premier League's two claret and blue sides - it's Aston Villa vs. West Ham!
Villa must be looking at each game now as a must win. They are in real danger of being relegated this season, a fate that hasn't befallen them for quite a while.
Don't be fooled into thinking that the former European champions are 'too big' to go down, however. The fact remains that they are 19th in the league, two points from safety.
They can move out of the relegation zone today, but to do that they would need to do something that they haven't managed in their last eight league games - win. Since their impressive 3-1 win at Anfield in December, Paul Lambert's side have picked up just three points. In fact, the only teams that they have beaten in any competition during that time are Ipswich and Bradford.
Things are looking pretty grim for Villa, then, but what about their opponents today? Well, West Ham don't come into this match in the best form either. They began the season very well, but suffered a poor Christmas period to see them slide into the bottom half.
They did beat Swansea in their last match though, with returning striker Andy Carroll grabbing the only goal of the game. A win today would put them level on points with Stoke in 10th, while a win by over three goals would see them leapfrog the Potters.
Three goals may be too big an ask of the Hammers, though, as they haven't exactly been free-scoring away from home this season. They have netted just seven times on their travels, which is the worst record in the Premier League.
In fact, with the third worst away record in the league this season, a win at all may be a big ask for Sam Allardyce's men. They have picked up just eight points on their travels this season, and have claimed just one point since November 11.
As poor as the Hammers have been away from home, however, Villa have been just as bad in front of their own support. They have the third worst home record in the league this season, managing just 10 points from their 12 games at Villa Park.
Worse still, Villa have lost their last four league home games, picked up just one point in their last five and scored just twice in their last seven. No wonder the fans are starting to get restless.
Right, it's time to bring you folks some team news!
Aston Villa have made three changes to the side that drew 3-3 with Everton in their last outing, bringing in Nathan Baker, Jordan Bowery and Fabian Delph for Joe Bennett, Karim El Ahmadi and Gabriel Agbonlahor.
West Ham, meanwhile, stick with Andy Carroll up front but do make two changes to the side that beat Swansea. Joe Cole and Emanuel Pogatetz replace Matt Jarvis and Ricardo Vaz Te.
ASTON VILLA STARTING XI: Guzan; Baker, Clark, Lowton, Vlaar; Bowery, Westwood, Delph, N'Zogbia; Weimann, Benteke
ASTON VILLA SUBS: Given, Sylla, Bent, Bannan, Holman, Dawkins, Bennett
WEST HAM STARTING XI: Jaaskelainen; O'Brien, Tomkins, Reid, Pogatetz; Noble, Diame, Nolan, J.Cole, Taylor; Carroll
WEST HAM SUBS: Spiegel, Demel, O'Neil, Jarvis, Vaz Te, C.Cole, Chamakh
So no start against for Bent in the Villa side, he must be getting used to that bench! To be fair, Weimann and Benteke, when on form, are both handfuls and the duo could be key if Villa are to survive this season.
Villa will also be looking towards Charles N'Zogbia to provide a threat going forward in this one. As with Benteke and Weimann he can be a real threat when on form, but all too often this season he has been a bit of a passenger and not fulfilled his potential.
As for West Ham, it's no surprise to see Carroll leading the line. He scored the only goal of the game against Swansea and has a seemingly telepathic understanding with Kevin Nolan. He and Joe Cole also know each other from their Liverpool days, so it will be interesting to see how they link up today.
They also have options on the bench should they need to call upon them. Carlton Cole and Chamakh both represent a similar threat to that of Carroll, but Vaz Te is a tricky little player who has the ability to make a real nuisance of himself.
Historically, there is no separating these two sides. Both have won 31 of the 89 meetings, with 27 draws. Even when it comes to goals they are pretty even, with West Ham netting 144 times compared to Villa's 141.
Kevin Nolan scored the only goal of the game when these two met back in August, but recent history has been fairly evenly matched too. The biggest win in recent times came back in 2005 when Marlon Harewood netted a hattrick in a 4-0 win for the Hammers.
Today is very much a story of a poor home record against a poor away record. Which one will triumph?
Villa's current plight is eerily similar to their circumstances in the 80s. They went through glory days then, winning the European Cup, but cut the wage bill and brought in a number of young players who went on to get relegated just seven years after being crowning kings of Europe.
While they never reached the dizzy heights of European success in their latest glory days, a team containing the likes of Ashley Young, James Milner and Gareth Barry consistently challenged for European qualification under Martin O'Neill. Cue the sale of their big players and the drafting in of youngsters, and they find themselves in a familiar position.
Starting Bowery up front is a big risk from Lambert today. It will be the youngster's full debut for the club, and if he doesn't impress then questions will be asked why he was chosen ahead of Bent, who is a proven goalscorer.
We're 10 minutes from the start of this match, which means that it is time for the prediction! Both sides have poor recent records, and I think Villa's poor home record will cancel out West Ham's poor away record. I don't see either side winning this one, to be honest. I'm going to go for a 1-1 draw.
Both sides have leaked goals at times this season, especially Villa (the 8-0 drubbing by Chelsea springs to mind), but neither have been impressive in attack either. I've already talked about the Hammers' poor scoring record away from home, but Villa have only scored nine times in 12 home matches this season. That's a shocking record and only QPR have a worse one.
Still, Villa will look at this match and think that the three points are up for grabs. With the teams in and around them in the relegation dogfight starting to pick up points fairly regularly, every 'winnable' game is vital.
The teams walk out to a pretty empty Villa Park. The fans could be vital to helping their side stay up, but a lot of them seem to have had enough. Half empty or half full, I'll let you decide.
A quick word on Jussi Jaaskelainen, who is celebrating his 500th career league appearance today. He has been a great servant to the Premier League, first with Bolton and then West Ham, and he deserves the landmark.
Aston Villa kick us off here.
Villa begin the match with a calm period of possession as West Ham look to press high up the pitch to force an early error.
CHANCE! What a chance for an early lead for the hosts! Benteke shoots from the edge of the box and it should be easy for Jaaskelainen, who inexplicably spills it straight to Weimann. He has most of the goal to aim at, but steers his effort wide from six yards. That is a shocking miss, it really should be 1-0.
That would've been a perfect start for Villa. It would've settled their nerves and helped the fans get behind them. They have made a bright start to the match overall, however.
CLOSE! Carroll wins his first header of the day to flick it on towards Joe Cole, who is denied by a good challenge by a Villa defender. The ball comes back out to Carroll and his snap shot loops just over Guzan's crossbar.
Villa are operating with a very high line today. Wise tactics from Lambert as Carroll, Cole and Nolan aren't going to beat them for pace.
Weimann breaks away down the left but Tomkins is fast enough to make up the couple of yards needed to get a fine last ditch challenge in. The resulting corner is cleared, but when put back into the box is headed behind from O'Brien for another corner.
From that corner Baker picks up a knock from a clash of heads. They are showing that Weimann miss again in the meantime and it just gets worse every time you see it. One of the misses of the season.
Carroll also pick up a knock during that corner, but both he and Baker will be able to continue.
Villa waste another good attacking platform, and this time it is Delph who needs to take the blame. His touch was poor, showing too much of the ball to Tomkins, who puts in another strong tackle.
Delph is going to get a talking to from the ref now after a cynical foul. He was well and truly skinned by Diame there!
Delph is involved again, but in a more positive way this time. He skips past two challenges before being brought down by Pogatetz. The Villa man is perhaps lucky not to go into the referee's notebook there.
The usual standing ovation greets the 19th minute in respect for Stiliyan Petrov. The Villa fans' enthusiasm for their own team may have waned a bit but their devotion to the club captain has not wavered once.
Two very strong challenges come in in quick succession, with the last one leaving O'Brien in a crumpled heap on the floor. It was brave defending for the West Ham man and he looks to have got a dead leg for his troubles.
Diame wastes a good crossing opportunity after losing his marker. He failed to get the ball off the ground and it was cleared by the first man. You have to make the most of them when you've got the likes of Carroll in the box.
Tomkins puts in another inch-perfect sliding tackle. He has done that about four times already today. This time he gets more than he bargained for as Delph's trailing boot catches him flush in the face.
WEST HAM SUB: Meanwhile, O'Brien will not be able to continue after that dead leg. He is replaced by Guy Demel.
Another good attack from the hosts breaks down as Tomkins nips in again to take the ball off the toes of Benteke, who was winding up and just about to pull the trigger.
Another important block from, you guessed it, Tomkins as Weimann steams in to power a header goalwards. Plenty of positives to take so far for Villa, but they haven't forced Jaaskelainen enough.
Carroll is inches away from nicking the ball away from Ron Vlaar, but the Villa defender just gets it away in time. Carroll would've been in on goal had he got that.
SHOT! West Ham work the ball around nicely after getting the ball via a deflection off Mark Clattenberg. Joe Cole slips Diame in down the left, but he goes for goal from an impossible angle rather than crossing it, and sure enough it doesn't trouble the keeper.
N'Zogbia floats a ball into the box which Jaaskelainen claims under no pressure. You'd think after his earlier spillage that Villa would've piled players into the box there, particularly with someone who has the physical presence of Benteke.
Both sets of strikers are struggling to get into the game. We haven't really seen anything of debutant Bowery, while Carroll hasn't be able to make an impact yet either.
CHANCE! The ball is threaded through the eye of a needle to Diame, who gives it to Carroll who in turn shifts it on to Demel. The substitute puts in a superb low cross, but Clark sticks out a leg to deny a waiting Joe Cole. Top defending.
SHOT! One to forget for Vlaar. He is teed up from a free kick about 30 yards from goal, but the time he hits it Noble is pretty much right in front of him and he drags his shot well wide of the goal.
CHANCE! Vlaar is much closer this time. A corner comes in low and Vlaar meets it on the half volley at the near post. His shot goes into the ground and bounces just over the bar, however.
Baker still has blood streaming from his head after that earlier collision with Carroll. The ref hasn't seen it yet and Baker is not making a fuss about it either.
A swift and fluid counter attack sees Weimann put a first time ball into the box where Lowton is waiting unmarked and in acres of space. The pass is just behind him, however, and he can't control it.
YELLOW CARD! Carroll under-hits a pass to Pogatetz, allowing N'Zogbia to nip in and launch an attack. He is brought down by a chasing Pogatetz, who is duly booked for the cynical foul.
We will have four minutes of added time.
Bowery has a chance to break away after Taylor gave the ball away, but the West Ham man works back to win the ball again. One thing you have to admire is the work rate of these West Ham players.
SHOT! Carroll is very close to linking up nicely with Nolan, but the pass is just behind the onrushing midfielder. Moments later Carroll has a shooting chance of his own, but his effort goes high and wide, much to the delight of the home fans.
HALF TIME: Aston Villa 0-0 West Ham
We should have seen this coming really, shouldn't we? Aston Villa struggle to score at home and West Ham struggle to score away from home. Sure enough, it's 0-0 at half time!
It really shouldn't be 0-0, though. In fact, the deadlock should have been broken in the first couple of minutes. Andreas Weimann had a glorious chance to open the scoring after picking up Jussi Jaaskelainen's spillage, but somehow he steered his effort wide from about six yards out.
Other than that, chances have been few and far between. Certainly, we haven't had one that good. It was one of the misses of the season and Weimann will be lucky to get another chance that good!
You can read Liam Apicella's half time report here.
Both managers will be fairly happy with that first half. Lambert will be unhappy that they haven't taken the lead, but there are plenty of positives to take from that first 45 minutes. They've looked strong in defence, something that we haven't been able to say for most of this season, and will be optimistic about getting a goal.
West Ham, meanwhile, would be happy with a clean sheet and point away from home, you'd think. They didn't seem too worried about breaking the deadlock in that first half, as shown by the fact that they didn't have one shot on target, but the likes of Jarvis and Vaz Te could come on to increase their attacking prowess. A bit of width could be exactly what they need. Allardyce will be hopeful of staying strong at the back and perhaps nicking a late goal.
Overall, however, it was a poor half of football. There was just one shot on target and only one really good chance. I can't say I'm surprised given both sides' recent records!
Villa will have to be wary, however. A stat has just come to my attention saying that no side have conceded more goals in the 15 minutes after half time (11) than the hosts this season.
Villa have also not scored a goal from open play at home since mid-November.
They have a chance to change that unenviable stat in the next 45 minutes, and the Hammers gets us underway.
West Ham have an early corner after a high ball from Demel was headed behind under pressure from Carroll. It's the first corner for the Hammers, who have a significant aerial threat...
Benteke clears the first ball, but it comes back in and drops to Tomkins at the back post. His volley is blocked by Vlaar, though, and Villa finally get it clear.
It's been quite a frantic start to this half, with neither side able to keep hold of the ball for a prolonged period of time.
PENALTY SHOUT! Demel works space to cross and Carroll is looking to get on the end of it. He is bundled over by a clumsy challenge from Vlaar, but the referee waves it away. I've seen them given, and outside the box I'm sure that would've been a free kick.
Cole swings a dangerous ball in towards Diame, and Jaaskelainen comes out but doesn't get there. Bowery gets a header in to flick it over his own crossbar and out for a corner. Good defending from the youngster.
Bowery gives the ball away in a very dangerous position, allowing Diame to bear down on goal, but Vlaar gets a foot in to send it out for a corner with Cole screaming for it inside the box.
West Ham are piling the pressure on at the moment! Villa are forced to make some fine defensive clearances from inside their own six yard box as the Hammers pepper their box with crosses. One in particular from Clark denies Tomkins a tap in at the back post.
The visitors have come out in this second half with a lot more attacking intent than they had in the first, which can only be good for the game.
But here come Villa! Bowery puts in a low cross that needs to be cleared by Reid and the hosts now have a corner...
...nothing comes of it, however. This game has really livened up in the last 10 minutes or so.
The Hammers have another corner as Clark gets his body in the way of Demel's cross. It is aimed towards Carroll, but Baker is on hand to clear the ball out for a throw-in. They've dealt with Carroll well today.
Again Villa put their bodies on the line to protect their goal. Guzan first denies Carroll before another block stops Nolan's effort.
ASTON VILLA SUBS: Double change for Villa as Bent and Dawkins come on for Bowery and Weimann. Can Bent find the opener? Or perhaps Dawkins on his debut for the club?
CLOSE! Benteke works the ball out to N'Zogbia on the wing, and he cuts inside before driving a powerful effort just past the post. That looked like it was in all the way! So close.
OFF THE LINE! Darren Bent's introduction immediately pays off, but not in the way you might expect. The ball falls kindly for Carroll from a corner, and he drills a low shot in towards goal but is denied by Bent, who stayed in his position on the line from the corner.
WEST HAM SUB: Here comes Ricardo Vaz Te, replacing Taylor. That should give the Hammers more attacking options out wide, and could see them return to a flat back four rather than the back three they have been playing with so far.
I think there is a goal in this one. Which way it will go is another matter, however. The longer it stays 0-0, the more nervous Villa will become. They need the win more than West Ham do.
Villa come forward and Benteke is almost found in the box, only for Tomkins to get to the ball first. Moments later, Benteke tries to turn provider, but his cross only finds a West Ham man.
YELLOW CARD! A silly tackle from Baker deservedly earns him a yellow card, and takes the pressure off West Ham. They have a chance to hoist the ball into the box now.
SHOT! Cole whips it in to Nolan, who has space but is given too much to do and heads it wide.
PENALTY TO ASTON VILLA!
Big, big moment for Villa! N'Zogbia skips past Noble in the box and goes down under the midfielder's challenge. Mark Clattenberg points straight to the spot, and he really wasn't given a choice.
GOAL! Aston Villa 1-0 West Ham (Christian Benteke)
That is as cool as you like. Benteke was under immense pressure with that spot kick, but he sent Jaaskelainen the wrong way and just passed it into the bottom right corner. Now can they hold out?
WEST HAM SUB: Allardyce responds to the goal with a sub, and on comes Carlton Cole for Mark Noble.
CHANCE! Carlton Cole is immediately involved and has space inside the box. It just won't sit up right for him, however, and Delph gets across to get a tackle in.
YELLOW CARD! Bent wins a free kick in a dangerous position and Reid slams the ball down in anger, earning him a yellow card. Good chance for the hosts to double their lead here.
GOAL! Aston Villa 2-0 West Ham (Charles N'Zogbia)
Suddenly everything is rosy for Villa! N'Zogbia steps up and curls a sumptuous free kick past Jaaskelainen. It wasn't right in the corner, but take nothing away from the winger, that was a beauty. Not a bad way to get his first of the season and, surely, that has given Villa all three points?! It's kitchen sink time for West Ham!
Villa have thrown away a two-goal lead three times this season, however. Surely then can't again?
PENALTY SHOUT! Delph slides Dawkins in on goal, but the debutant is stumbling over as Reid slides in with a challenge. He eventually goes down, claiming a penalty, but Clattenberg correctly awards just a goal kick.
SAVE! Joe Cole hangs a long ball into the back post where Vaz Te is waiting unmarked. He goes for goal instead of heading it back across, and Guzan pushes it wide at his near post.
ASTON VILLA SUB: N'Zogbia is limping off here, to be replaced by Yacouba Sylla.
CLOSE! West Ham are really knocking on the door at the moment. The ball comes out to Vaz Te on the edge of the box after a bit of a scramble, and his effort is deflected just wide.
YELLOW CARD! Darren Bent becomes the latest player to enter the referee's notebook.
GOAL! Aston Villa 2-1 West Ham (Ashley Westwood og)
That pretty much sums Villa's season up. Joe Cole's ball into the box glances off the head of Westwood, which sends it flying past a helpless Guzan. So unlucky for Villa, and the pressure is really on them now.
Lambert is agitated on the touchline, and rightly so. He has seen his side blow a two-goal lead three times this season, and they could be about to squander another.
We will have four minutes of added time.
CHANCE! Carlton Cole cuts in from the right and slides the ball through to Carroll, but the ball eludes him and runs through to Guzan.
Joe Cole whips a free kick into a dangerous area, but Guzan does well to come and claim it under a challenge from Pogatetz.
YELLOW CARD! Ciaran Clark was shown a yellow card for a handball before that free kick.
Villa fans want the whistle, but they have another minute to hold out!
CHANCE! Oh so close! The ball falls to Nolan inside the six yard box and he hammers it towards goal, but is denied by Guzan. From the rebound Guzan makes another save, and the ref blows for full time before West Ham can take the next corner.
FULL TIME: Aston Villa 2-1 West Ham
There you have it! Villa move out of the relegation zone with an invaluable home win. Goals from Benteke and N'Zogbia were enough to give them all three points, but Westwood's unfortunate own goal made things very interesting at the end.
Villa still haven't scored at home from open play since mid-November, but they won't care about that right now. That's their first league win in eight and, more importantly, puts them out of the bottom three.
Right, that's all we have time for from Villa Park! Thank you for joining Sports Mole for today's match. If you still haven't had your fix of live coverage, Liam Apicella brings you Manchester United vs. Everton as the hosts look to move one step closer to regaining the Premier League title. Stay on site for the match analysis, which should be up within half an hour. Good afternoon!