Aston Villa 2 Sunderland 1
As football seasons go, most supporters of Aston Villa will simply be glad that this one's over.
But at least the suffering Villa fans were able to break up for the summer with a win - only this season's sixth in 19 Premiership home games. Entertaining as it was, and it should have been a lot more comfortable for David O'Leary's men, it was only against the bottom club though.
And, despite chairman Doug Ellis's assertion that "I am convinced we are moving in the right direction", beating a side like Sunderland really is only papering over the cracks.
The Villa fans are clearly not convinced. At the end, the Holte End offered its loudest chant yet of 'We want O'Leary out'. But, when tackled on the question of whether he still has their support, O'Leary boldly said: "The majority of them, without a doubt."
Assuming that, as expected, he does survive today's pre-arranged board meeting,
O'Leary can now plan with a bit more conviction for next season. And, although he has still only got a very rough idea of the team that will be picked for Villa's next game on August 19, it was some consolation to end such a disappointing campaign on a relative high note.
It took Villa until two minutes before the interval to break the deadlock. But a goal had always looked only a matter of time.
Liam Ridgewell and Sunderland old boy Kevin Phillips both missed chances. And Gary Cahill, still clearly nursing golden memories of his winning derby goal here last month, had another crack with an overhead kick. This one was straight at Sunderland keeper Kelvin Davis, but it was warmly received nonetheless.
Not so warmly received later on was Cahill's second-half challenge on an annoyed Anthony Le Tallec, to trigger an outstanding slick piece of handiwork from referee Mike Dean. From original foul to actual flourishing of yellow, a matter of split seconds and surely, in that way, the fastest card of the season.
Villa finally went ahead with a superb finish from stand-in skipper Barry who, fed by Phillips just outside the corner of the box, picked his spot with a beautifully struck left-foot shot.
Barry then materialised at the other end at the start of the second half to clear a misdirected clearance from Ridgewell off his own line. And it needed a Thomas Sorensen save to keep out Justin Hoyte. But it was Sunderland's goal that continued to lead a charmed life.
James Milner's right foot screamer flew just over the angle then, after he had set up Davis, the Northern Ireland international watched in anguish as his right-foot pile-driver came back off the post before Gavin McCann thundered the rebound wide.
Barry then set up Juan Pablo Angel, thwarted by Davis's legs. But a second Villa goal had to come. And the introduction of the fleet-footed Gabriel Agbonlahor helped provide it.
Agbonlahor took on Sunderland's rickety defence and, just when his pace had taken him clear of Gary Breen, the veteran defender brought him down.
Barry's penalty was to the keeper's left, Davis getting enough of a hand on it to cannon the ball off the ground, up against the bar and back off him for a corner. But the reprieve was short-lived.
From Milner's resulting flag-kick, Davis dived to his left to deny Ridgewell's initial header. But, when the alert Cahill steered the ball back across, Ridgewell steamed in again to positively bullet in his header past Davis.
"Gareth said he changed his mind in mid run-up and anyone who does that is asking for trouble," said O'Leary. "So it was nice to get the the goal so quickly after the penalty."
Needless to say, in this worst-ever season of league results at Villa Park, the action was not all over.
To cap a few late flurries, Sunderland pulled one back when Danny Collins exposed Villa's season-long weakness at setpieces to thunder home a header from Dean Whitehead's corner.
But that only left the small matter of the farewells.
Just how many of those players who circumnavigated the ground in their ill advised 'lap of appreciation' will still be there next season?
Mellberg and Baros are bound first for the World Cup, then who knows after that? Angel's body language and individual farewell to the fans was certainly that of a man who will not be here next season.
And the warm reception accorded substitute Lee Hendrie when he came on suggested this was the last the Villa fans expect to see of their longest-serving player.
All that and a rare sighting of Eric Djemba Djemba, clad presumably in his demob suit!
As for the man in charge, prior to the players' valedictory lap of the ground, there was that latest anti O'Leary chant. But the clever money is on him still being there come July 10 when the Villa players report back for training. ..SUPL: