Nottingham Forest ended their six-match winless streak in style as they beat Aston Villa 2-0 in the Premier League at the City Ground.
Forest had not won since beating Chelsea way back on September 2 and the pressure had begun to grow on boss Steve Cooper as they slipped down the table.
But goals from Ola Aina and Orel Mangala lifted the gloom and the performance was a reminder that they are a different proposition to the side that narrowly avoided relegation last season.
They showed in the first 50 minutes in particular how good they can be as Cooper won the tactical battle with Unai Emery.
Villa’s high line was repeatedly exposed and, after also misfiring in attack, they lost for the first time in six games, which will temper expectations that a top-four challenge is possible.
Forest were quick out of the blocks and the fast start was rewarded with a fifth-minute lead.
Anthony Elanga was set free down the left and he teed it up for Harry Toffolo to pull it back across goal, straight into the path of Aina, who met it with a delicious side-footed effort that fizzed into the bottom corner from 25 yards.
That provided Forest with a platform and they were denied the opportunity to score a second after Nicolas Dominguez robbed Boubacar Kamara and Taiwo Awoniyi went in on goal, but referee Jarred Gillett generously blew up for a foul.
Villa looked vulnerable to Forest’s pace but the hosts’ execution when picking through balls let them down.
The visitors briefly came into the game and tested debutant goalkeeper Odysseas Vlachodimos for the first time in 36th minute as Moussa Diaby picked out Nicolo Zaniolo at the far post, but the Italian’s drilled effort hit the legs of Vlachodimos.
Soon after Forest had a fine chance to double their lead as Aina raced clear down the right and pulled it back for Gonzalez, but the Argentinian blazed over from 12 yards.
But Forest did strengthen their advantage just 69 seconds after the restart, though Villa keeper Emiliano Martinez will not want to watch it again.
The hosts broke down the left, with the ball ending up with Mangala 20 yards out and the Belgian produced a swerving shot which Martinez got a hand to, but he could only palm it upwards and the spin carried the ball over the line.
The Argentina World Cup winner won the Yashin Trophy, effectively making him the best goalkeeper in the world, at last week’s Ballon D’Or, but this effort will not be winning him any awards.
It was perfect timing as the goal was immediately followed by a minute’s applause for Nottingham Panthers ice hockey player Adam Johnson, who tragically died after a horror accident while playing against the Sheffield Steelers last week.
Dominguez had an excellent chance to make it three shortly after but he shot straight at Martinez, who made a better fist of this save.
They could have done with that going in as, with memories of their last home game against Luton fresh in their mind, they saw Villa up the ante.
For the first time in the match Emery’s side began to look threatening, with Ollie Watkins not getting enough contact on a header from close range, Diaby being denied by Vlachadimos and Leon Bailey heading over.