Aston Villa’s rise under Unai Emery continued with a 2-1 win over a hapless Leeds at Villa Park on Friday.
Leon Bailey and Emi Buendía scored in each half as Villa bounced back from a surprise FA Cup exit to League Two Stevenage last weekend.
Patrick Bamford scored for Leeds with seven minutes remaining, but defeat leaves Jesse Marsch’s men still just two points outside the relegation zone.
Villa remain 11th but are now level on points with Chelsea after a run of just one defeat in six league games since Emery took over in October.
Bailey was left in tears after the final whistle in Villa’s previous league game against Wolves after missing out on a glorious late game-winning chance.
The Jamaican quickly made amends to open the scoring after just three minutes with a fine shot into the top corner after Villa charged onto the pitch from a Leeds corner.
“It was definitely a relief to see the ball come in. It was definitely coming,” Bailey said.
“I’ve had a few moments where the ball didn’t go in, but I’m happy to take advantage of that opportunity today.”
Thereafter Leeds dominated the first half, but a combination of poor finishing, luck and the inspired form of Emiliano Martínez in the Villa goal kept them at bay.
“We showed that we were the best team, but the most important thing was the best all-around performance we’ve had as a team,” Marsch said.
“Obviously it’s frustrating with the points in the bonus at the moment and you look at the table and the stress of that situation, but if we can play like that, we have something to build on.”
Rodrigo got the better of Martínez one-on-one, but his scoring effort was cleared off the line by Villa debutant Alex Moreno.
Jack Harrison looked sure to equalize when he stormed to meet Luke Ayling’s cross at the far post, only to be denied by an impressive reaction from Martinez.
Rodrigo finally had the ball in the Villa goal in first-half stoppage time, but the Spaniard had drifted slightly offside in the build-up to the goal.
The pattern continued early in the second period, as more heroics from Martinez were needed to reverse a curling effort from the impressive Wilfried Gnonto.
But Leeds took another punch when Illan Meslier could only parry Bailey’s powerful shot and Buendía headed the rebound past the French keeper.
Villa’s celebrations were initially cut short by the offside flag, but the goal was given after a VAR review.
Gnonto finally had something to show for a brilliant display as the young Italian international showed his strength before powering past Bamford to score in his first appearance since October.
But it was too little, too late for Leeds as their winless run stretched to seven games.