Aston Villa 1 Charlton Athletic 0
These are the afternoons that are always forgotten but the results that are always remembered.
If Aston Villa's victory proved one thing it is that talk of relegation was premature and, frankly, ridiculous. Villa will not even be close to the relegation zone when the trophies are being dished out in May.
True, there are still problems, but there are enough positives to suggest that the future can still be bright. One of those positives - Steven Davis - is fast turning into Villa's most prized possession. His goal in the 69th minute, which separated these teams, owed much to vision, composure and skill.
This result should be the turning point for Villa. Charlton are a good team, despite four successive defeats, and you do not win matches like this unless you have the fortitude and energy required. It was a horrible match to watch but a beautiful match to win.
This was the first time that Villa won successive matches in the Premiership for a year. It was a shame only 30,000 people turned up to watch.
David O'Leary, the Villa manager, ducked the postmatch press conference and left it to Roy Aitken, his assistant, to reveal what everybody else always knew: That Villa have never really been candidates for Championship football. Not everything is as it appears.
"We were in a false position in terms of points, but back-to-back wins have given us a more realistic total," Aitken said. "I think a onegoal defeat probably flattered Charlton a bit. Our success over the past couple of seasons has been built on winning home games, hopefully this will put us on the right road now."
It was an afternoon when individual performances from the Villa players outweighed that of the team. Davis was brilliant, James Milner impressive, and Gavin McCann dominant. You could never see Villa losing this match - Charlton were way off the pace - but there were times when you wondered if anybody would create a serious chance.
Inevitably, the best chance resulted in the only goal. When Villa striker Milan Baros struck the crossbar with a close-range shot, it seemed as though the match had 0-0 written all over it. But when the ball was only half-cleared, Davis gained control with one touch and scored with a fine left-footed volley from 20 yards out. Even the Charlton supporters were applauding.
Charlton manager Alan Curbishley had the facial expression to match his concern. The Addicks barely created a chance. "I have no complaints about that or the result," he said. "If you don't create chances you don't deserve anything. We had one or two players who didn't turn up today, and I expected a bit more from them than that."
Generally, this match was a comedy of errors. It is doubtful that Villa's Wilfred Bouma, fine defender that he is, will never be allowed to take a direct free-kick from outside the penalty area. His effort, which ballooned over the crossbar midway through the second half, was so bad that everyone except for him was laughing.
But this was about Premiership points. Villa have now risen to the middle of the table, giving the impression that European football is a possibility for next season. Surgery is still required. New players, particularly defenders, are necessary when the transfer window opens in January.
And yet, two of Villa's most impressive players were their centre-backs, Liam Ridgewell and Olof Mellberg, who restricted Charlton to speculative shots on goal that had little chance of troubling Thomas Sorensen.
Ridgewell's story is particularly interesting. Earlier in the season, he was set up as an example of how Villa had lost their way. He was making mistakes and appeared to lack confidence. But on Saturday, he seemed assured, astute, and more than a match for the opposition.
One suspects O'Leary would still like to replace Ridgewell but the young defender is at least giving his manager something to think about. The same can be said for most of the Villa players now. It is essential that Milner is signed on a permanent basis and essential that McCann remains clear of injury.
Things were never as bad as they seemed but, thanks to this result, there is cause for optimism at Villa Park. Why, even Doug Ellis was smiling.