The Stadium of Light fixture was tipped to heavily feature former Black Cats man Darren Bent who was back at Sunderland for the first time since departing for Villa in January but the England international did not have much impact on the outcome as the home side were saved by Stephane Sessegnon's late header.
Villa took the lead in the 20th minute through captain Stiliyan Petrov whose brilliant strike from just outside the 'D' gave Simon Mignolet no chance with the Belgian keeper later coming off injured with Kieren Westwood his replacement.
Seven minutes prior to half-time, Sunderland were back on level terms when teenage striker Connor Wickham opened up his Premier League account with a neat left-footed finish from Sessegnon's defence-splitting pass and it looked as though the match would end 1-1 as the minutes elapsed.
But Villa defender Richard Dunne put the visitors in front with five minutes remaining when he glanced home Petrov's free-kick from the left flank before Sessgnon scored his second in two outings with a header of his own from Sesbastian Larsson's set-piece with a minute remaining.
The draw sees Steve Bruce's Sunderland remain 14th on the league table as Villa moved up to ninth with their 12th point of the campaign so far.