The Belgian striker’s eighth goal in his last six Premier League games was enough to see off a below-par Spurs and move Villa six points clear of the relegation zone.
Gabby Agbonlahor could have doubled Villa’s advantage when he hit the woodwork in first-half injury time but, despite seeing midfielder Carlos Sanchez sent off late on, the visitors held on to earn a vital win in their battle for survival.
The result sees Tottenham slip to seventh, seven points off the Champions League-qualifying places, ahead of Manchester City’s trip to Old Trafford on Sunday.
Tottenham had won their previous five Premier League games against Aston Villa but, in Sherwood’s first clash against his former team since being sacked as manager last year, it was the visitors who made the brighter start, with Michel Vorm forced to punch clear Benteke’s header.
Spurs slowly grew into the game, with Federico Fazio heading Andros Townsend’s corner over and Danny Rose drawing a good stop from Brad Guzan after Ciaran Clark had been forced off with a knee problem.
However, it was Villa who made the breakthrough on 34 minutes, when Benteke – who scored a hat-trick in the 3-3 draw with QPR on Tuesday – glanced Leandro Bacuna’s inviting cross into the far corner.
Rose and Christian Eriksen both shot wildly off target as Tottenham sought an immediate response but it was the visitors who nearly hit a second in first-half stoppage time when Agbonlahor latched onto Benteke’s flick-on and fired a fierce effort against the post.
There was still time for Fabian Delph to bend a free-kick narrowly over the bar, as Sherwood’s men finished a productive first-half on the front foot.
And Villa continued to threaten after the interval, with Ron Vlaar blazing over from a corner shortly after the re-start.
Tottenham soon stepped up their pursuit of an equaliser, with Harry Kane just failing to reach Townsend’s drive across the six-yard box before curling a left-foot shot onto the roof of the net.
Villa then lost Agbonlahor to injury but, despite Tottenham dominating possession, continued to carve out the best chances. First Vlaar headed wide at the back post, before sub Andreas Weimann shot tamely at Vorm.
Delph then wasted a golden opportunity to put the game beyond doubt when he was sent clear by Benteke. The England midfielder delayed his shot too long and Vorm eventually made a smart save.
The game ended in feisty fashion as Sanchez picked up a second yellow card for a wild lunge on Rose before Kane clashed with Kieran Richardson but Villa saw out the remaining minutes to end a three-game wait for a Premier League win – to delight of boss Sherwood.
SOCCER SATURDAY VERDICT – Phil Thompson
“I’d say Villa controlled the game. Spurs will say they had a lot of possession but they didn’t go anywhere with it. They had a lot of shots but there was only once Guzan had to make a save.
“It was an electric start by Villa, they pressed very, very high. They sensed, maybe, that Spurs aren’t up for it at the moment.
“Sherwood was trying to keep a lid on it but inside he was absolutely delighted. Aston Villa were very, very good. They had the best opportunities. They’ve brought Benteke into the game and he looks like he’s enjoying his game again.”
Tottenham: Vorm (7), Chiriches (6), Dier (6), Fazio (6), Rose (6), Bentaleb (6), Chadli (5), Eriksen (6), Mason (6), Townsend (7), Kane (6).
Subs: Yedlin (6), Lamela (6), Soldado (6)
Aston Villa: Guzan (7), Bacuna (7), Clark (6), Richardson (6), Vlaar (7), Cleverley (6), Delph (7), Sanchez (6), Agbonlahor (7), Benteke (9), Grealish (7).
Subs: Baker (7), Cole (6), Weimann (6)
Man of the match: Christian Benteke