This had the grand sweep, the enveloping tension, the epic drama of a winner-takes-all last game of the season. Even though it is still March, it felt, throughout every second of every minute, as if it could be decisive.
At the end, after Rangers defender and captain Clint Hill hammered a final chance narrowly over the crossbar with the last kick of the game, with bodies strewn all around, Villa manager Paul Lambert leapt uncontrollably into the air.
Across the dugouts and Rangers' Harry Redknapp stood frozen in time.
Earlier his assistant, Joe Jordan, had clashed with Lambert - "Scottish banter," the latter later growled - and, on that final whistle, four Rangers players collapsed to the turf and this fine old stadium erupted in euphoria for the home fans and disbelief for the visitors.
Villa are now an extremely healthy seven points clear of Rangers, level with Sunderland, and six clear of third-from-bottom Wigan Athletic, albeit having played two games more. Their prospects of survival have risen sharply with back-to-back wins following the victory over Reading last weekend.
"Are we safe? There is a long way to go," said Lambert with understandable Glaswegian circumspection. "This is the first time this football club has won back-to-back games since 2011, which is quite incredible. There are eight games to go and what we have now is momentum. It certainly gives us a good feeling."
There was courage, too. For both wins they had to come from behind and although, in truth, they were not impressive, they showed steel and resolve. That was summed up by goalkeeper Brad Guzan, who kept them in the contest in the first half, and the intense industry of Andreas Weimann, who scored Villa's second.
And yet by half-time Rangers should have been out of sight such was their dominance. There were three "world-class" saves, according to Lambert, from Guzan, while Redknapp was still stunned when he spoke.
"That first half was so one-sided, it was unbelievable," Redknapp said, while reckoning Rangers now needed five wins and two draws from their final eight fixtures to survive. "It's going to be hard but if we keep playing like that we can win four or five games," said Redknapp. "We can't go and feel sorry for ourselves. We have to get on with it." Does he think Villa will survive? "They probably will, I suppose," was Redknapp's reluctant assessment. "They will scramble home somehow." That sounded harsher than he meant but with Bobby Zamora, Loic Remy and Andros Townsend in attack Rangers had pace to burn and Villa got singed.
Chances racked up almost from the start, with Guzan, twice, brilliantly denying Christopher Samba.
In the swirling rain, with a leaden sky, Villa seemed downcast and the errors - and bookings - built up. The commitment was unquestionable but soon after when Villa lost Nathan Baker, concussed in a clash of heads, it seemed his replacement, Joe Bennett, was the one feeling groggy. He inexplicably played the ball infield only for Jermaine Jenas to collect and charge forward. The midfielder threaded a pass to Zamora, whose shot was blocked by Guzan only for Jenas to poke home the rebound.
Townsend then shot narrowly over, Remy was denied by another fine save but then came the pivotal moment. Immediately after Jose Bosingwa had thudded a free-kick against a post, with Guzan beaten, Villa countered.
It was the stroke of half-time and Matt Lowton was allowed to flight a cross. Julio Cesar stayed on his goal-line, neither Bosingwa nor Samba reacted and there was Gabriel Agbonlahor to guide a header into the net.
Then everything changed. Rangers lost Zamora to the effects of flu and lost the point of their attack. Now it was Villa who were pouring forward and stacking up chances and they took the lead. Cesar clawed away Weimann's close-range header but from the corner Bennett collected possession and rolled the ball back to the Austrian. Bennett carried on his run, distracting Bosingwa and Hill, and opening up the space for Weimann who fired in low and beyond Cesar.
Soon after Lowton should have finished the contest but dragged his shot wide and it appeared to be a costly miss as the impressive Townsend ran on to Ji-Sung Park's lay-off. His shot clipped Vlaar's heels and squirmed inside the post to beat the unsighted Guzan. Neither side wanted the draw and this astonishing contest continued thrillingly. Charles N'Zogbia fed to Weimann and he appeared to miscontrol - was there even a handball? - but held off Bosingwa and cut the ball back for Christian Benteke to side-foot the winning goal. There almost were more twists. Substitute Adel Taarabt slalomed forward only for his shot to be blocked. Then, in the sixth minute of added time, came Hill's effort.
Seven years ago Redknapp's Portsmouth lost 1-0 at Villa Park and appeared doomed to relegation. They escaped. Can they do it again? They can - although their prospects dimmed dramatically on Saturday.