Christian Benteke and Gabriel Agbonlahor scored twice each as Sunderland completely capitulated before half-time, causing angry scenes among the home supporters at the Stadium of Light.
Benteke turned in the opener on 16 minutes before Agbonlahor beat Costel Pantillmon inside his near post two minutes later, and then Sunderland supporters began streaming for the exits when Agbonlahor bagged their third after 37 minutes.
A number of home fans appeared to throw objects towards manager Gus Poyet and his staff in the home dugout and there was a further exodus when Benteke headed Villa’s fourth in first-half stoppage time.
Villa manager Tim Sherwood’s side came into the game a point behind Poyet’s but, bouyed by an injection of confidence from back-to-back league and cup wins over West Brom, they moved three points clear of danger with a third straight win.
Poyet’s side, however, are just two points above third-bottom Burnley and this was the first time they have conceded four goals at home this season.
Fabian Delph, who controlled midfield for Villa, threatened with an early shot sent wide of the far post before Benteke turned in a Scott Sinclair cross in acres of space to make it 1-0.
Agbonlahor then capitalised on a mistake by John O’Shea that saw the defender misjudge a chipped ball forward and allow the Villa winger to beat Pantillimon inside his near post.
Several Sunderland players had frank discussions with Poyet on the touchline in the hope of restoring stability, but they failed to break Villa down and were shambolic in their attempts to quell counter-attacks.
Charles N’Zogbia broke through midfield and found Agbonlahor sprinting inside from the right, who turned inside his marker and fired into the bottom corner for 3-0.
Amid angry scenes, Sunderland fans began leaving the ground in their droves and a handful appeared to make for the home dugout, where a scarf and a season ticket appeared to be thrown towards Sunderland staff.
Benteke added the fourth when he timed his jump to perfection and headed in to cap off another superb breakway on the stroke of half-time.
Sunderland’s disarray was further evident when they played the first three minutes of the second half with 10 men due to Seb Larsson receiving treatment in the dressing room for a knock.
After he emerged to ironic cheers from what was left of the home suppport, Sunderland played a more stable second half and substitute Connor Wickham hit the post late on.
But such was the away side’s control, Sherwood also able to hand 16-year-old striker Rushian Hepburn-Murphy his Aston Villa debut as a late substitute.
Having watched the game, Sky Sports‘ Charlie Nicholas told Soccer Saturday: “Today was shambolic and this team is on its knees. How Poyet will be able to lift these players, who were in this battle last season, I don’t know.”
Sunderland: Pantilimon (5), Reveillere (4), van Aanholt (4), Brown (4), O’Shea (3), Bridcutt (4), Larsson (6), Rodwell (6), Alvarez (4), Defoe (5), Fletcher (5)
Subs: Wickham (6), Graham (5)
Aston Villa: Guzan (7), Lowton (7), Okore (7), Clark (7), Bacuna (7), Delph (8), Cleverley (7), Sinclair (7), N’Zogbia (7), Benteke (8), Agbonlahor (9)
Subs used: Sanchez (6), Weimann (6), Hepburn-Murphy (6)
Man of the Match: Gabriel Agbonlahor