The Gunners hit the lead early with Robin van Persie's 35th league goal of the calendar year, taking him past Thierry Henry's record, before Marc Albrighton leveled for Villa with the 20,000th goal in Premier League history.
But that joy of the equaliser for the home side ended in disappointment when Gunners substitute Yossi Benayoun headed home late, and Alan Hutton was sent off, as Arsenal recorded maximum points to move back to fifth on the table with Villa losing for the fourth time in six matches.
The opening goal came in the 17th minute when Theo Walcott turned Ciaran Clark outside the area before the Irishman gave a little shirt tug on the winger which was enough for referee Jonathan Moss to point to the spot. van Persie, as always, was the man for the job and stepped up to finish emphatically, high and hard, past Brad Guzan.
Villa hit back with something out of nothing less than 10 minutes into the second half when Thomas Vermaelen sold defensive partner Per Mertesacker short with a misplaced header from a long up-field ball with Albrighton chipping in to slot through the legs of Wojicech Szczesny with a cool finish.
But Arsene Wenger's men rallied late with Benayoun staying down to nod home van Persie's corner - which was Arsenal's 11th of the half - amidst poor marking from Villa's Gabriel Agonblahor for the Israeli's first league goal for the Gunners after joining on loan from Chelsea in the summer.
Earlier in proceedings, Villa applied early pressure and almost went ahead when Charles N'Zogbia's cross from the right found Agonblahor who tested Szczesny with the Pole coming up with a pointblank save right on the goal-line.
Agbonlahor was looking well up for it and again went close with an effort from close but Aaron Ramsey got a well-timed toe in before Mertesacker tested Guzan from just outside the six-yard box in the 55th minute when a corner fell for him.
Richard Dunne was a monster in defence for the home side and produced a big block to deny substitute Tomas Rosicky late before Alan Hutton received two yellow cards in quick succession as the North Londoners got the result they were looking for against a brave and unlucky Villa outfit.
TRIBAL ASKS:Arsenal continue to dig deep for their points. Is this a sign of a much-improved and more mature side?
Villa Park, Birmingham - 35,818
Red card:AV - Alan Hutton 90+3'