Paul Lambert was lucky to escape with a 1-1 draw against his former employers as Aston Villa endured a second-half battering by Norwich City.
Christian Benteke fired Villa into a first-half lead, but Joe Bennett's red card soon after the break led to a long spell of intense Norwich pressure.
Michael Turner headed the equaliser 11 minutes from time, but the visitors were unable to complete the turnaround against a poor Villa side whose atrocious ball retention will be more severely punished by better sides than Norwich.
The game took on extra significance for Lambert, who is involved in a complex legal battle with his former employer, with both sides suing the other. However, his desire to put one over Norwich was dwarfed by the need for three points.
Villa fans have not taken to their new boss, with question marks over his selection and tactics. Lambert stuck to his guns by keeping £18m striker Darren Bent on the bench with Benteke leading the forward line.
For their part, Norwich were unsurprisingly unchanged from the side that beat Arsenal 1-0 last Saturday.
On a sunny but brisk day in Birmingham, the match began in front of a subdued corwd with thousands of empty seats.
Supporters have had little to shout about since Martin O'Neill's departure in 2010 - the club came into the game on a run of two wins in 16 home league games, dating back to last season under Alex McLeish.
There was a wearying familiarity about the lack of quality on show, with few chances and fewer examples of exciting, attractive football.
Villa midfielder Brett Holman hit a low shot at John Ruddy, while at the other end Brad Guzan saved well from Wes Hoolahan and Elliott Bennett had a penalty appeal turned down.
On 27 minutes, Benteke opened the scoring with a fine piece of centre-forward play - he controlled a Holman cross from the left and kept his cool to place the ball past Ruddy into the right corner.
The Belgian repaid his manager's faith with a barnstorming display, particularly in the air where he was almost completely dominant.
The game's key moment came seven minutes into the second half when Joe Bennett held back Elliott Bennett off the ball - Phil Dowd showed the Villa man his second yellow card.
If Villa's passing was sloppy with 11 men, after the sending off they abandoned any pretence of trying to maintain possession and withstood wave after wave of Norwich attack.
Guzan made several more excellent saves - from a point-blank Hoolahan effort and a Grant Holt one-on-one. The lively Hoolahan proved a particular menace for Villa, with the diminutive Irishman supplying invention and creativity.
It was no surprise to see Hoolahan set up the equalising goal, as his inswinging delivery was met by Turner, whose glancing effort went in off the outside post.
By this stage, Lambert had removed the excellent Benteke for Bent - a strange move given the imperative for a player able to hold the ball up.
A beleaguered Villa side hunkered down and survived the closing stages, thanks in no small part to a Ryan Bennett's poor technique - leaning back and thrashing his 15-yard shot over instead of keeping his head over the ball.
Lambert may point out that the red card changed the game, but Villa simply do not pass like a top-flight team.
Unless the Scotsman can conjure radical improvement, a season-long relegation battle seems inevitable.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Wes Hoolahan (Norwich City): In a game of precious little quality, the Irishman was the most creative player on the pitch and deserved his assist for Michael Turner's equaliser.
ASTON VILLA: Guzan 8, Lowton 7, Vlaar 6, Bennett 5, El Ahmadi 6, Delph 5, Herd 6, Albrighton 5, Holman 7, Agbonlahor 5, Benteke 7. SUBS: Bent 5, Lichaj 5.
NORWICH: Ruddy 6, Martin 7, Johnson 6, Bassong 6, Turner 7, Holt 6, Pilkington 6, Hoolahan 8, E Bennett 6, Garrido 6, Tettey 7. SUBS: Snodgrass 6, Morison 6, R Bennett 6.