Aston Villa 2 Derby County 0
It would appear the good times are back at Aston Villa. The team are attracting average gates of 40,000 for home games - a feat they last achieved on a regular basis back in the season of 1949-50 - and Villa Park is also beginning to become a fortress again.
This 2-0 victory over Derby County was Villa's fifth home win of the season but fans shouldn't get carried away with dreams of Europe just yet.
This was a below-par performance by Martin O'Neill's standards and only a stern half-time pep talk spurred Villa into action after a thoroughly frustrating first half.
In the opening exchanges, it was Derby, who have not taken a point from their trips to Villa Park over the last 20 years, who came closest to opening the scoring when Steve Howard was put through by Dean Leacock to force a fingertip save from Scott Carson in the first minute from 25 yards.
But that really was to be the only time Carson, returning along with team-mate Nigel Reo-Coker from suspension, was to be put to the test during the entire match. And while Stephen Bywater was kept far busier at the opposite end of the field, Villa were guilty of not putting away a glut of chances.
It was perhaps then no wonder that the Holte End faithful seemed a little more preoccupied with a certain derby against their Second City rivals Birmingham City next week with their chants rather than the Derby in front of them.
They will certainly be hoping their Villa heroes raise their game a lot higher than this and convert their chances - Luke Moore, Gabriel Agbonlahor and Ashley Young all guilty of squandering opportunities on this occasion.
In the fifth minute Reo-Coker tried to make his presence felt finding Agbonlahor free on the wing but the England Under-21 star's effort skimmed an inch wide of Bywater's post.
Zat Knight, out to make amends for his last two below-par performances, then found his header blocked but the ball immediately ricocheted back in to him. He struck it with his right foot but Bywater cleared hastily.
Howard then won the ball in the air for Derby to set up Giles Barnes and in turn Craig Fagan but his sixth minute chance went high over the bar.
But Villa's pacy forwards could not find their finish and when Stiliyan Petrov shot wide from 25 yards, it seemed a goal would never come. Agbonlahor picked out Gareth Barry whose shot was deflected out by his own defender as Knight tried to get a piece of the action.
In the 18th minute Barry was again busy and dug out Luke Moore but his effort also ran wide and within seconds Moore was again guilty of missing a chance after Reo-Coker had set him up.
With the Villa strikers finding it hard to hit the target, the defenders decided to have a turn and Olof Mellberg rose highest to meet his skipper's corner only to see Bywater able to meet his header.
By now Ashley Young was tearing Derby's flanks to pieces as Villa chased that elusive first goal while at the other end any half-chances Derby might create were being cruelly snuffed out by Martin Laursen.
Agbonlahor then called for a penalty after being pegged back by Andy Griffin and Claude Davis but referee Mark Halsey rightly ruled Griffin had got to the ball.
In the second half Villa, revitalised by their manager's half-time team talk, finally broke the deadlock and the hearts of Derby's impressive travelling contingent.
Moore again went close before Young earned his side another free kick after being caught late by Pearson on 57 minutes.
He floated the ball into the box to meet the head of Barry who quickly flicked it back in from the near post for Laursen to fire home.
Seconds later, Barry and Young again linked up well but the Villa captain's effort floated over Bywater's bar.
Villa did not have to wait so long for their second goal, however. Agbonlahor's effort rebounded off the keeper to Reo-Coker whose volley across the face of the goal found Young and he smashed it home into the top of the net.
Young later limped off with a groin strain for his efforts but, by then, the damage had been done and even the appearance of former West Bromwich Albion hot-shot Robbie Earnshaw could do nothing to get Derby back into contention.
Villa substitute Shaun Maloney and Agbonlahor both missed late chances to extend the scoreline. Pretty it wasn't but O'Neill later conceded it was the result that was crucial rather than the overall display.
"There was a period in the first half when it looked like it was never going to happen for us, when we never got the momentum going but the players galvanised themselves in the second half and it was much, much better," said the Villa manager.
ASTON VILLA: Carson; Melberg, Laursen, Knight (Davies, 87), Bouma, Reo-Coker, Young (Maloney, 69) Barry, Petrov, Agbonlahor, Moore (Berger, 77). Subs: Taylor, Gardner.
DERBY COUNTY: Bywater; McEveley, Leacock, Oakley, Howard, Fagan (Earnshaw, 63) Griffin, Davis (Teale, 45), Moore, Pearson, Barnes. Subs: Price, Jones, Mears.
Referee: Mark Halsey (Greater Manchester).
Bookings: Derby  Griffin, Moore, Howard (fouls) Attendance: 40, 938.