It was an eventful first-half at Hillsborough as both sides searched for a much-needed victory, albeit for very different reasons. Sean Clare gave the hosts the lead with a low strike but they were soon pegged back as Lewis Grabban bundled home an equaliser for Villa. However, the Owls were able to head into half-time ahead as Lucas João headed home from a corner in first-half injury time.
As expected, Villa did respond in the second-half and drew level when Glenn Whelan's header found the back of the net. It was Villa who then went on to secure all three points courtesy of a late strike from Conor Hourihane. Robert Snodgrass added gloss to the scoreline in injury time as he converted a penalty.
Clare and João give Owls first-half lead
Jos Luhukay was heavily criticised for his team selection before the Owls' 2-1 defeat to Millwall in midweek and he decided to make another five changes for this match. Both Atdhe Nuhiu and João returned to the starting line-up to give Wednesday a much better focal point in attack.
As for Villa, Steve Bruce decided to make three changes as Ahmed Elmohamady, Glenn Whelan and Grabban returned to the starting line-up. Snodgrass also recovered from his recent illness in time for the match which was a huge boost considering how influential he has been for Villa recently.
The Owls had the first opportunity of the game with around 10 minutes played as Jack Hunt whipped in a cross from the right-hand side which Adam Reach headed narrowly wide.
This gave Luhukay's side real belief and they took the lead just minutes later. Villa's defence could not deal with Nuhiu in the area and he nodded the ball down to Clare to fire home to give the hosts the lead. This was the 21-year-old's first goal for Wednesday after coming through the club's academy.
However, the Owls could only hold onto their lead for a matter of minutes. John Terry's header from a free-kick was superbly kept out by Joe Wildsmith but he could do nothing to prevent Grabban from bundling the ball home after a huge scramble to make it 1-1, much to the delight of the large travelling support.
Despite being pegged back, the Owls did not let this take away from their good start. They could have retaken the lead with around 25 minutes played as George Boyd's cross was headed just wide by João who perhaps should have done better.
The Owls came close again with around 10 minutes to go until half-time. Jack Hunt charged towards goal unchallenged before unleashing a shot that looked destined for the top corner but it was tipped over by Sam Johnstone.
The hosts continued to dominate before the break and Clare had a great opportunity to net his second of the game following some neat build-up play from Boyd down the left-hand side but his shot was well blocked. Boyd was again involved from the resulting corner as his shot hit the inside of the host.
However, Villa could not prevent the Owls from retaking the lead in stoppage time at the end of the first-half. Reach's corner was a dangerous one and João found himself unmarked to head home and make it 2-1 on the stroke of the half-time whistle.
Villa seal all three points late on
As expected Villa started the second-half on the front foot and had the first opportunity as they looked to find a way back into the game. A delivery into the area caused the Owls problems as Terry headed the ball back across goal towards Grabban but his header was kept out by Wildsmith.
The away side continued to press and the Owls found themselves slipping further and further back. Snodgrass was given too much time and space on the edge of the area and his superb cross was headed into the back of the net by Whelan to make it 2-2 and set up a grandstand finish with just over 20 minutes left to play.
The hosts again responded to being pegged back by piling the pressure onto Villa and creating a number of good opportunities in quick succession. Clare's corner caused a huge scramble in the area before the away side eventually cleared. Shortly after, Nuhiu was played through on goal but was again denied by Johnstone who made a smart save.
However, despite their impressive performance, the Owls fell behind in the dying minutes. A Villa corner fell perfectly for Conor Hourihane in the area and he volleyed home into the bottom corner to give his side a 3-2 lead and send the away supporters into raptures. Snodgrass converted from the penalty spot in injury time for the away side to add further gloss to the scoreline.