Stewart Downing and Gabriel Agbonlahor celebrate Villa's second goal
By Chris Bevan
Aston Villa remain in the thick of the race for a top-four Premier League finish after overwhelming Burnley.
Steven Fletcher put Burnley ahead from close range but Villa levelled when Ashley Young's cross flew straight in.
The Clarets collapsed after the break with Stewart Downing turning in Young's pass and scoring with a deflected shot.
Emile Heskey met Gabriel Agbonlahor's cross to make it 4-1 and Agbonlahor bundled home a fifth at the near post before Martin Paterson's consolation.
Villa scored four of their goals in the space of 13 second-half minutes - a capitulation by Burnley that shows exactly why they are deep in relegation trouble at the bottom of the table.
Downing gives Villa extra dimension - O'Neill
The Clarets have the worst away record in the country, with one point from a possible 42, and have conceded more goals - 55 - than any other top-flight team.
But until Downing found the net for the first time, in the 56th minute, it was difficult to tell which team was the one chasing European qualification and which was battling for top-flight survival.
Villa have an FA Cup fifth-round replay against Crystal Palace to look forward to on Wednesday, ahead of next weekend's Carling Cup final against Manchester United but, while Martin O'Neill's side have been in excellent form in knockout competitions, they have been less assured in the league in recent weeks.
The home side were certainly lacking in fluidity in the opening minutes and paid the price when the Clarets took a surprise lead. Jack Cork slid David Nugent clear and he had the presence of mind to look up and cross for the unmarked Fletcher to tap in at the far post.
That was Burnley's first away goal since Chris Eagles found the net in their 5-3 defeat at West Ham on 28 November - a run of 550 minutes - and they almost added another seconds later when Nugent fired in a shot that looped off James Collins and dropped wide with Brad Friedel stranded.
Villa had created little but as soon as they did put the visitors under some sustained pressure, they drew level.
Brian Jensen may rue his decision not to catch Young's free-kick from the left because, from the corner that followed, the same player cut inside before flighting in an inswinging cross that flew through a crowd of players and took the merest touch off Daniel Fox on its way into the net.
Burnley made it through to half-time on level pegging easily enough, and even started brightly enough after the interval, but their afternoon soon became a defensive horror show that must be familiar to their travelling fans.
Young carved the visitors apart down the left before sliding the ball to Downing, who found the bottom corner of the net despite the best efforts of Leon Cort.
Seconds later it was 3-1, with Jensen doing brilliantly to deny Agbonlahor after he raced clear but left helpless when the ball was fed to Downing and his shot flew in off the hapless Fox's leg.
We fell apart in 12 minutes - Laws
Burnley were shell-shocked and it soon became clear that this was going to be an exercise in damage limitation for Brian Laws' men when Agbonahor's pace left them exposed down the left and he sent across an inviting cross for Heskey to turn the ball home.
By now the home side were rampant and added a fifth goal in the 68th minute when Heskey and James Milner combined down the right and Agbonlahor got on the end of Milner's low ball.
It could have been far worse for Burnley as Villa substitute John Carew scuffed a shot wide when well placed inside the area, but Paterson did at least give their long-suffering supporters something to cheer when he met Cork's excellent cross in injury time.
Aston Villa boss Martin O'Neill: "We needed to threaten them a lot more than we had done in the first half and close players down, and we did that successfully.
"We had started a bit slowly but that burst after half-time was conclusive and will boost our confidence.
"The equaliser galvanised us and the spurt after half-time was exceptional."
Burnley boss Brian Laws: "It was a 13-minute chunk where we fell apart, that is the disappointing thing.
"We limited Villa to very little in the first half - they had only pockets of chances - but the second goal after the the main turning point.
"After that, instead of shutting up shop, we opened up - and, if you do that, the good sides will hurt you."
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