London: Aston Villa crawled out of the Premier League relegation zone by coming from behind to beat Reading 2-1 on Saturday, while bottom club Queens Park Rangers gave themselves further hope with a 3-1 defeat of Sunderland.
Villa had won just one of their previous 11 league games and went into the weekend in the bottom three, but they took the game to relegation rivals Reading from kick-off at the Madejski Stadium.
Christian Benteke hit the bar with an early header, while Andreas Weimann dragged a shot wide from a Benteke pass.
However, Reading took the lead against the run of play in the 32nd minute through one of the most comical own goals of the season.
There was little danger in Jobi McAnuff’s low cross from the left but Villa defender Nathan Baker horribly sliced his attempted clearance and sent the ball spinning into his own net.
Fortunately for Baker, Villa equalised immediately, with Weimann teeing up Benteke to beat Stuart Taylor via a deflection off Stephen Kelly.
Gabriel Agbonlahor completed the turnaround in the 45th minute, smashing a left-foot shot into the roof of the net after Barry Bannan had hit the post.
Reading remain second from bottom, while Villa move out of the bottom three at the expense of Wigan Athletic, who stunned Everton 3-0 at Goodison Park in the FA Cup quarter-finals earlier in the day.
“The goals that we scored today were excellent — we don’t look like a team that is fighting for its life,” said Villa manager Paul Lambert.
“There will probably be a few teams looking over their shoulder tonight, and we have a bit of momentum at the minute.”
QPR stayed bottom, four points from safety, despite overcoming Sunderland to record consecutive wins for the first time this season.
Steven Fletcher put Sunderland ahead after 20 minutes at Loftus Road, dispatching Adam Johnson’s drilled cross after a counter-attack led by Stephane Sessegnon.
However, Loic Remy’s calm finish drew QPR level in the 30th minute and Andros Townsend put the hosts in front 20 minutes from time with a glorious half-volley from 22 yards that dipped into the top-left corner.
Both QPR goals had come from January transfer window arrivals and another new signing, Jermaine Jenas, got on the score-sheet in the 90th minute to secure victory.
“We didn’t feel sorry for ourselves. The crowd were excellent and stayed with us,” said QPR manager Harry Redknapp.
“That was the best I have seen us play. We need to have a run of results like that.”
QPR finished the day level on points and goal difference with Reading, who remain above their relegation rivals on goals scored.
West Bromwich Albion came from behind to win 2-1 at home to League Cup winners Swansea City, allowing Steve Clarke’s side to leapfrog their opponents into seventh place.
Former West Brom striker Luke Moore headed Swansea in front in the 33rd minute, but the hosts replied through Romelu Lukaku’s 13th league goal of the season five minutes before half-time.
On-loan Chelsea striker Lukaku saw a tame penalty saved by Michel Vorm early in the second half, but an unfortunate own goal gave West Brom victory in the 61st minute.
Gareth McAuley’s header was headed off the line by Swansea full-back Angel Rangel but the ball hit the Spaniard’s team-mate Jonathan de Guzman and bounced into the visitors’ goal.
Swansea manager Michael Laudrup was aggrieved that substitute Roland Lamah had an 87th-minute goal ruled out for offside despite the ball apparently being diverted into his path by a West Brom player.
“What makes me frustrated is when you see our disallowed goal,” Laudrup said.
“We are not talking about a decision; we are talking about the rules of football.”
Meanwhile, at a sleet-strewn Carrow Road, Artur Boruc saved an injury-time penalty from Grant Holt to earn Southampton a goalless draw away to Norwich City.
With five Premier League teams in action in the FA Cup quarter-finals this weekend, there are only two more top-flight fixtures on Sunday.
Newcastle United host Stoke City, while Tottenham Hotspur will look to tighten their grip on third place when they visit eighth-placed Liverpool.