Two minutes of madness from Cheik Doucouré effectively sentenced Crystal Palace to another winless outing as Aston Villa rediscovered some form at Villa Park to reignite their push for Europe.
The Mali international earned bookings for fouls on Boubacar Kamara then his replacement Callum Chambers to be dismissed in the 69th minute.
By then, Joachim Andersen had put through his own net to give Villa a deserved lead in the 27th minute in a game of few chances.
Before the game, much of the talk had centred on Leon Bailey after the Villa forward was alleged to have inhaled laughing gas from a balloon. Bailey was a 70th-minute substitute, replacing Jacob Ramsey.
On a mixed day for Aston Villa’s current strikers then, the goal saw Ollie Watkins go within a whisker of equalling Andy Gray’s 46-year-old record of scoring in six consecutive games in the top-flight.
Aston Villa continue their European hopes with a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace at Villa Park
Joachim Andersen put through his own net to give Villa a deserved lead after 27 minutes
Victory was a rare commodity for both clubs, especially at home for Villa, who had won just once in their last six games in front of their own supporters, including back-to-back reverses by a 4-2 scoreline.
So a first clean sheet at Villa Park under manager Unai Emery was more than welcome for Villa, to add to the three under the former Arsenal boss on their travels.
MATCH FACTS & RATINGS
Aston Villa (4-2-3-1): Martínez 6; Cash 6, Konsa 7, Mings 7, Moreno 7 (Digne 70 minutes, 6); Kamara 7 (Chambers 59 minutes, 6), Douglas Luiz 6; McGinn © 8, Buendía 8, J Ramsey 7 (Bailey 70 minutes, 7); Watkins 8 (Durán 85 minutes, 6).
Substitutes: Traoré, Young, Olsen, Sinisalo.
Booked: Douglas Luiz, Moreno.
Crystal Palace (4-2-3-1): Guaita 7; Clyne 6, Andersen 5, Guéhi 5, Mitchell 6; Doucouré 4, Sambi Lokonga 6 (McArthur 81 minutes, 6); Olise 6 (Mateta 67 minutes, 6), Eze 7 (Ahamada 75 minutes, 6), Zaha 7; J Ayew 7 (Hughes 85 minutes, 6).
Substitutes: Ward, Milivojevic, Édouard, Richards, Whitworth.
Booked: Doucouré, Ahamada, Eze, Zaha.
Sent off: Doucouré.
Referee: Craig Pawson
Palace are still searching for their first win of 2023 and are now without one in nine Premier League outings.
Villa made inroads when they went close to opening the scoring with their first attack.
Captain John McGinn, who looks revitalised after returning to the side in a wide right position, swung in a viciously swirling free kick from the right which was met by a cushioned header by Watkins.
It sat up perfectly for Emiliano Buendía to volley goalwards on the angle. But the Argentinian’s shot was deflected behind by Albert Lokonga.
Palace thought they had taken the lead in the fifth minute.
Eberchi Eze slid a pass through for Wilfried Zaha to round Emiliano Martínez but VAR ruled the Palace attacker was offside by a toecap after straying fractionally ahead of Ezri Konsa.
It was a tactic Patrick Vieira’s side tried to capitalise on a few times.
Villa were trying to seize control of the game and should have done better from an inviting cross by Alex Moreno.
But McGinn and Ollie Watkins got in each other’s way and the skipper nodded harmlessly wide.
A Palace player had the ball in the net for the second time in the game – and this time it gave Villa the lead in the 27th minute.
McGinn split the left side of Palace’s defence for Matty Cash to run onto and produce a low cross aiming for Watkins. But Andersen got there first, sliding the ball past helpless goalkeeper Vicente Guaita.
Villa appealed for a penalty in the 41st minute when Jacob Ramsey went sprawling in the box under challenge from Nathaniel Clyne after a surging run down the left.
But referee Craig Pawson was unmoved.
Watkins then couldn’t make sufficient contact from point-blank range after a melee following Douglas Luiz’s free kick.
Wilfried Zaha scored after rounding Emiliano Martinez but his goal was ruled out for offside
Cheik Doucoure was sent off for second bookable offence, minutes after his first one
And at the other end, Emiliano Martínez, who was this week voted the world’s best current goalkeeper, came out to smother at Jordan Ayew’s feet in what was an increasingly rare Palace foray forward.
Villa returned to the attack and should have doubled their lead on the stroke of time added on at the end of the first half.
A lovely one-two between McGinn and Buendia on Villa’s right saw the latter find Watkins in space, but with only Guaita to beat, he sidefooted inches wide just when supporters expected the net to bulge.
Then came the moments of madness from Doucouré.
The loss to Villa has seen Patrick Vieira’s side stretch their winless run to nine league games
First the Mali international, a £18 million signing from Lens last summer, brought down Kamara, which left the Villa midfielder hobbling off the field.
Then he caught Kamara’s replacement Callum Chambers on the right shin with a follow-through to earn a second yellow card to leave Palace down to 10 men.
Zaha, out of nothing, almost levelled for Palace with a shot on the turn after bringing a high ball out of the air on a sixpence but his effort sailed a yard wide.
But that was as close as Palace came to an equaliser as Villa saw the match in some comfort.