Emile Heskey paid off the first instalment of his £3.5million transfer fee with a 20th-minute debut goal that took Aston Villa up to third in the Premier League with their latest smash-and-grab 1-0 success at Fratton Park.
Luckless Portsmouth, meanwhile, slipped deeper into the relegation mire just four days after losing their grip on the FA Cup, losing Nadir Belhadj to a red card in the process.
Martin O'Neill's side are now level on points with second-placed Liverpool, who were at one stage linked with a transfer window move for their former striker Heskey.
On this evidence, he already looks an astute purchase for Villa.
Villa, though, were left clinging on against Pompey's 10 men who should have snatched a equaliser right at the end when substitute John Utaka ran straight into goalkeeper Brad Friedel instead of shooting from close range.
Earlier Pompey boss Tony Adams - who has won just two of 14 games since taking over from Harry Redknapp - saw his own new signing Hayden Mullins waste two plausible chances.
He was further sickened when Algerian Nadir Belhadj saw red - first for tripping Craig Gardner and then handling the ball after an innocuous clash with Carlos Cuellar.
Pompey still battled to the end with substitute Utaka missing another clear opportunity right at the death. But by then most of the 19,073 crowd must have know it was again going to be Villa's night.
The visitors had barely threatened before keeper Brad Friedel's monster clearance was headed on unchallenged by Agbonlahor, who found Heskey's fine run.
The England striker was afforded too much space to meet his partner's ball on the edge of the area and drilled it first time past David James.
Peter Crouch missed a sitter as Pompey took the game firmly to their high-flying visitors in the second half.
The industrious Jermaine Pennant, signed last week from Liverpool, brilliantly set up his former Kop team-mate but Crouch stabbed his shot over the crossbar from just six yards.
Villa were happy to play it on the break although their defence, still lacking the injured Martin Laursen, looked none too happy against Pompey's continued pressure.
Pennant and Sean Davis forced saves from Friedel and Portsmouth looked sound at the back despite the absence of skipper Sol Campbell in the second period.
Campbell was replaced at half time by another former Spurs centre-half, Younes Kaboul.
But the south coast side's hopes took a major dent when Belhadj was dismissed in the 71st minute.
Curiously, though, it looked like Pompey had the numerical advantage, such was their territorial authority as Villa flagged.
Gareth Barry and James Milner were willing soldiers for Villa, whose game is built so much on solid team-work and although Heskey was comfortably policed in the second period, Pompey were always concerned by the pace of Agbonlahor.
Indeed, the 22-year-old forward should have wrapped it five minutes before the break when he dragged wide trying to beat James at his near post after sprinting clear.
Relegation looks a real threat now for Pompey with games against Liverpool and Manchester United coming up, but for Villa the future looks exciting - even though they rarely thrilled at Fratton Park.
Martin O'Neill was in jovial mood after Aston Villa set a new club record for
away wins in the Premier League and climbed to third in the table.
Debutant Emile Heskey's 20th minute winner at Portsmouth added weight to
Villa's unlikely title ambitions and O'Neill quipped: "I'll think we'll win it
Only a few weeks ago O'Neill asked an interviewer "are you drunk?'' after it
was suggested Villa could break the big-four monopoly and finish top of the
Premier League pile in May.
Although the Villa manager continues to make light of the possibility in
public, he is now surely privately believing it could actually happen - with the
midlands team behind second-placed Liverpool only on goal difference and just
three points adrift of leaders and champions Manchester United.
He admitted after Villa reeled off a sixth successive away win in the league
and a ninth this season: "At least we are making it a bit interesting.
"And I'm delighted with how we are performing. The spirit in the side is first
"We've been without John Carew for two months and now Martin Laursen and
Ashley Young are missing as well. If you had told me at the start of the season
we would be doing so well without players like this then I'd just never have
Villa have been piling up the points despite not always impressing and there
was no doubt they had the rub of the green against luckless Pompey, who slipped
deeper into the relegation zone just four days after losing their grip on the FA
Cup thanks to a fourth round home defeat by Swansea.
But new signing Heskey delivered the goods on his debut with a first-half goal
he both created and finished in partnership with Gabriel Agbonlahor and said:
"It's nice to score on your debut because it can be difficult settling into a
"But I've had some great times with some great clubs including with Martin at
Leicester and I'm sure it's going to be the same here at Villa. Sooner or later
someone is going to break up the (established) big four and hopefully it will be
O'Neill said: "I'm delighted with Emile. I thought he was excellent. Please
God he'll stay fit because then it should be a great partnership with Gabby
whose had to work himself into the ground the last few weeks.''
Pompey manager Tony Adams, who has won only two of 14 league games since taking
over from Harry Redknapp, said: "I thought we were unlucky tonight. I thought
we played ever so well even with 10 men in the last 20 minutes.
"But at the moment everything seems to be against us. You get punished for
just one mistake, but we were well-organised, full of spirit and if you look at
the stats we had the best of the game.''
Pompey still looked capable of snatching at least a point even after Nadir
Belhadj was sent off for two petty yellow card offences - a clumsy trip and a
deliberate handball - 20 minutes from the end.
Adams admitted: "I can't have any complaints about the sending off. But I'm
not angry with Belhadj. We could have had a penalty, though when (Jermaine)
Pennant was blocked off a little bit.
"You always need points - everyone says that but when you don't get them you
just have to move on and look for them in the next game.
"I was encouraged and delighted, though, by the performance. The majority of
the game we were the better team and we are certainly not giving up the fight.
"Pennant played ever so well again but that will be swallowed up in the
result. Hayden Mullins gave us exactly what I thought we would. An honest guy,
plays it simple - the type you need in your team.
"There are still encouraging signs and we'll work on them. I'd still like a
couple more new players but it's a difficult market. We could do with another
one up front another one in midfield.''