A first-half double from John McGinn boosted Aston Villa’s play-off hopes after an impressive away win which dented Nottingham Forest’s chances of reaching the top six.
The hosts initially took the lead in a frantic opening 15 minutes, in which three goals were scored, as McGinn’s two goals put Dean Smith’s side ahead at the break.
Forest fought hard to get themselves back into the game in the second half, with a Yohan Benalouane goal ruled out for offside, before Kortney Hause’s first strike for Villa put the game out of reach.
The result sees Villa leapfrog Martin O’Neil’s side into eighth place in the Championship, two points behind sixth-placed Derby.
McGinn’s excellently-taken goals came just eight minutes apart – the first, a low driven shot from the left, was followed by a superb long-range effort from 25 yards that rebounded off the post, beyond Costel Pantilimon in the Forest net.
Jack Colback had given Forest an early lead after his cross-cum-shot looped over Jed Steer in the third minute of the game.
The first meeting this season at Villa park ended in a remarkable 5-5 draw, and after three goals were scored so early it appeared fans at the City Ground could be treated to another high-scoring thriller.
But in an entertaining and competitive game, the only other goal came when Hause deflected a whipped free-kick from Conor Hourihane into the net just after the hour mark to keep the visitors in the hunt for the play-offs.
Nottingham Forest manager Martin O’Neill:
“We are very much still in the hunt. We have to go and win on Saturday, in what is a big game for us.
“But tonight we will lick our wounds and get on with it. We got off to a great start but we were not in front for long enough.
“It was not the best goal in the world for us to concede and it gave Villa momentum, which they kept going by getting a second one.
“But in the aftermath of all this, we cannot forget that Villa are a very good side and perhaps they themselves will want to know why they are in the position they are in, rather than being in the top two.”
Aston Villa boss Dean Smith told BBC WM:
“It was a very professional performance. They had a fortunate goal that looked like a cross but we responded really.
“I brought John McGinn back in which was a tough decision because the midfield three have been doing really well. He was brilliant and deserved his two goals.
“He epitomises what we’re about as he’s a very good player but works so hard – the lads in the dressing room love him.
“[On being two points off the play-offs] I don’t want another false dawn so all we will be doing is concentrating on the next game which is Middlesbrough at home.”