Conor Hourihane scored one and made one for Aston Villa in a 2-0 win over Newcastle as the midfielder haunted Steve Bruce, who signed him for Villa.
It was an inspired decision from current Villa boss Dean Smith to start Hourihane as he looked to arrest a run of three straight Premier League games. The Irishman curled home the opener with a clever free-kick (32) before laying on the second for Anwar El Ghazi (37) via a delicious left-wing set-piece.
Chances came and went at both ends in an entertaining second half but it was Villa that held on for victory and got one over their former boss Bruce, who was returning to Villa Park for the first time since being sacked in 2018.
Aston Villa: Heaton (7), Guilbert (7), Konsa (7), Mings (7), Targett (7), McGinn (7), Grealish (8), Douglas Luiz (7), Hourihane (8), El Ghazi (7), Wesley (6)
Subs: Lansbury (N/A)
Newcastle: Dubravka (6), Yedlin (6), Fernandez (6), Clark (5), Dummett (5), Willems (6), Almiron (4), Hayden (5), Shelvey (6), Saint-Maximin (7), Joelinton (4)
Subs: Carroll (7), Gayle (6), Atsu (N/A)
Man of the match: Jack Grealish
How Hourihane and Grealish dominated Toon...
Newcastle were looking for their third win on the bounce but didn't carry much attacking threat in the early stages with their counter-attacking struggling to trouble Villa.
Douglas Luiz tested Martin Dubravka from range which the goalkeeper helped over the crossbar as Newcastle seemed to be comfortable in dealing with Villa's timid threat. However, Hourihane changed the game on 32 minutes.
DeAndre Yedlin gave away a silly foul on Jack Grealish on the edge of the area which handed Hourihane an opportunity. The Irishman switched the angle of the free-kick with a quick one-two with Grealish before whipping a clever effort around the wall and into the net.
Four minutes later it was 2-0 as Bruce's boys went to sleep from another Hourihane delivery from the left. This left-footed cross took the Newcastle defence out of the game which left El Ghazi with the simplest of finishes from close range against a poorly positioned Dubravka.
Allan Saint-Maximin set the tone for an improved Newcastle performance after the break with a fine run and strike that was clawed away by Tom Heaton.
Newcastle's willingness to open up created more space for Grealish to work in as he drove his team forward at every opportunity, registering five shots and making six key passes over the course of the 90 minutes in an inspirational performance.
Hourihane almost grabbed his second assist of the night with 13 minutes left but Wesley was denied from six yards by Dubravka when it seemed easier to score.
The introduction of Andy Carroll gave Newcastle an increased threat but apart from a smart volleyed effort from the striker, the visitors rarely caused concern in the final third.
Villa couldn't find the third goal late on but two was more than enough to see off a wasteful Toon outfit.
Man of the Match: Jack Grealish
Jamie Carragher said: "Grealish was outstanding. Aston Villa were dominant, and they will be disappointed they didn't score three or four."
Gary Neville added: "He's a talisman and I have to say it was a good night for him. They love him.
"When asked if this is the form that can get him into the England squad, he just has to do it consistently. England have got a lot of very good players. You think about what James Maddison is doing at Leicester at the moment, playing at a high level. Grealish has got to do that week in, week out and he's made a good start after coming back from injury.
"I was impressed with him. He wanted the ball all the time. He didn't get quite the output he'd like because he'd want a goal and an assist and all the things that'd go with it, but he ran the game. He'll be happy with his performance and so will Dean Smith."
Aston Villa boss Dean Smith said: "This is a really tough league and we have just gone through a period of playing Manchester City and Liverpool, which were games I thought we actually played well in.
"The table is so tight but you need to put a run together, be tough to beat and keep a clean sheet. I'm really pleased with the clean sheet tonight as we haven't had too many of those this season.
"Our form has been good but we knew it would be hard, but I think we've been competitive. It takes time gel defensively but I think we achieved that against Newcastle."
Newcastle boss Steve Bruce said: "The first half we didn't do enough. And two free-kicks. I've seen Conor do that so many times. He's got great accuracy and power in his delivery. Whether they were free-kicks? I thought we were harshly done by. Was it a foul on Jack Grealish? It looked a bit soft to me. It made it a difficult evening for us.
"There was nothing in the game until 30 minutes. With the standards we've set in the last few weeks, I always thought we were in the game. When you're chasing 2-0 down in the Premier League it's always going to be difficult."
- Newcastle conceded two goals in a league game against Aston Villa for the first time since February 2008 (a 4-1 defeat) - indeed, Villa scored as many goals tonight (2) as they managed in their previous seven encounters against the Magpies.
- Aston Villa have won four of their 13 Premier League games in 2019-20 (D2 L7), one more than they won in the entirety of their previous top-flight season in 2015-16 (3).
- Newcastle have lost 13 of their last 16 Premier League games played on a Monday (W2 D1), failing to score in 11 of those matches.
- Bruce has lost three of his last four games in all competitions against sides he's previously managed (D1), losing each of his last two such games against Aston Villa.
- Newcastle's Miguel Almiron has had more shots without scoring than any other player in the Premier League this season (22) - indeed, the Paraguayan is still yet to score his first goal (41 shots) or register his first assist (22 chances created) in the competition.
Manchester City are the visitors to St James' Park next weekend in the early Saturday kick-off (12.30pm) while Villa travel to Manchester United on Sunday (4.30pm kick-off)