Wycombe Wanderers 3 Aston Villa 8

Who says Premiership footballers are boring? Aston Villa silenced even their own doubting fans last night as they avoided a cup upset in remarkable style, chalking up their biggest win for 42 years.

After their side handed their League Two hosts, Wycombe Wanderers, a two-goal half-time lead, Villa's own fans chanted: "What a load of rubbish."

They even joined in when Wycombe's fans taunted them with the customary "Premier League? You're having a laugh."

But what an extraordinary transformation after the break. Helped by a couple of lucky breaks, Villa ran riot with seven second-half goals. And, by the time they all trooped off, the fans were even singing manager David O'Leary's name.

But even such an astonishing goal-fest did not paper over the cracks and it certainly had not looked like being O'Leary's night earlier.

Already without five firstteamers, he lost another when Dutch defender Wilfred Bouma was ruled out with calf trouble to add to the loss of Gavin McCann, Martin Laursen and Kevin Phillips.

And, although the Villa boss had Mark Delaney and Eirik Bakke making comebacks in the reserves' 1-1 draw with Blackburn Rovers last night, it was still a surprise that he should have chosen to further weaken his team by leaving skipper Olof Mellberg on the bench.

It meant an inexperienced centre-half pairing of Liam Ridgewell alongside Gary Cahill, who benefited greatly from his time at Burnley last season, but was bound to be a bit nervy making his Villa debut.

That rawness was soon exposed when, from their first real attack, Wycombe went in front with a goal that hinted at Villa's soft centre.

A quick gallop down the right from Danny Senda caught Villa cold and when he squared across, Wycombe's top scorer Nathan Tyson turned smartly to strike his 11th goal of the season from ten yards.

The Villa response was impressive; Milan Baros setting up Steve Davis's wellstruck equaliser from the edge of the box. Baros made a run down the right, pulled back and Davis hit it first time with his instep, curling the ball away from goalkeeper Frank Talia, before it nestlied just inside his right post.

That ought to have restored a bit of normality but Stefan Oakes had something to say about that, pinging over a succession of dangerous left-wing deliveries that Villa simply could not deal with.

Within five minutes of the Villa equaliser, home skipper Roger Johnson was left free to bullet home a header from Oakes' corner.

Johnson's centre-half partner, Mike Williamson, was then so close to adding another from another Oakes corner, only for his downward header to bounce up and just over the bar.

And then when Oakes again proved the supply line from the left six minutes before the break, 34-year-old veteran Tommy Mooney headed the third. A goal to treasure for the Birmingham City old boy who started at Villa Park in the late 1980s, only to be rejected by Graham Taylor.

There was at least some hope for Villa when Baros brought the best out of Talia just before the break but it did not stop the visitors being booed off by their fans.

It needed a rapid response - and Villa provided one. Three minutes had gone in the second half when Aaron Hughes carved his way down the right before pulling back for Baros to thump home.

But it took a few kind breaks to see Villa complete their recovery and book their place in round three.

James Milner's equaliser, after a neat exchange with Davis, appeared to take a deflection before earning the young loan-man a second goal in successive games.

But then came an even more unexpected helping hand when, in the 70th minute, Clint Easton whistled his attempted clearance of Patrik Berger's penetrating pass beyond his own keeper.

And, just three minutes later, Baros's legs were taken by Danny Senda and Gareth Barry stepped up to the spot to send Talia the wrong way.

As Wycombe heads dropped, Barry, Milner and Davis all struck again to allow the gloating Villa fans the chance to start taunting the home supporters. But it was hard to forget how uneasily they had all been squirming just half-an-hour earlier.