Aston Villa found Bradford City keeper Matt Duke in inspired form as the League Two club seized a first-leg advantage in the semi-final of the Capital One Cup.
The claret and blues had numerous chances to score but they were either repelled by Duke or squandered by Villa’s players in front of an electric atmosphere at Valley Parade.
Nahki Wells opened the scoring for the Bantams in the 18th minute and Villa were punished again in the 77th minute when Rory McArdle headed home.
Villa eventually found a way past Duke when Andreas Weimann pulled a goal back in the 82nd minute only for Carl McHugh to restore Bradford’s two-goal advantage with a header seven minutes later.
Manager Paul Lambert made four changes from the side which claimed a 2-1 win over Ipswich in the FA Cup last weekend
Gabby Agbonlahor, Matthew Lowton, Christian Benteke and Weimann were all named in the starting line-up in place of Marc Albrighton, Eric Lichaj, Darren Bent and Jordan Bowery.
Villa had the first chance in the sixth minute when Charles N’Zogbia jinked his way through the Bradford defence and forced Duke to make a smart diving save.
Benteke was picked out twice by dangerous inswinging corners from Barry Bannan shortly afterwards, but was unable to direct either attempt on target.
The Belgium striker was presented with another golden chance in the 13th minute when he got on the end of a clever through ball from Fabian Delph but Duke saved his angled shot.
However, despite Villa’s pressure it was Phil Parkinson’s side that took the lead six minutes later against the run of play through top scorer Wells who bagged his 16th of the season.
Referee Howard Webb and his assistant Mike Mullarkey get a call spot on to give a Bradford corner when Villa defender Joe Bennett claims he has been fouled.
Villa failed to clear a deep delivery from Gary Jones which dropped for Zavon Hines, and his deflected shot fell into the path of Bermuda international Wells who blasted the ball past Given from six yards out.
N’Zogbia had another dazzling run just before the half-hour mark although he failed to really test Duke with a slightly off-balance shot.
Duke parried Benteke’s effort from 25 yards shortly afterwards while Given was called into action in the 35th minute when Hines twisted and turned his way past Joe Bennett and drilled a low shot at the near post.
Bradford continued to look dangerous from set-piece situations and a corner from Jones was met by James Hanson but Delph cleared his firm header off the line.
Hines continued to cause problems for Bennett and Hanson should have done better from the former West Ham winger’s curling cross in the 42nd minute.
Villa created their best opening just before half-time when N’Zogbia popped up on the right flank and cut the ball back for Agbonlahor who lashed a powerful effort which Duke did brilliantly to save.
Duke made two top-class saves immediately after the interval when he blocked a Benteke diving header from Bannan’s cross.
And moments later palmed away Agbonlahor’s shot on the turn from 10 yards with Villa midfielder Bannan once again the provider.
Lambert introduced Bent in the 57th minute and he had a chance to get Villa on level terms four minutes later when he got on the end of Benteke’s flick on at the back post but volleyed over the bar.
Bent missed a great chance in the 67th minute when he headed over the crossbar from a few yards after N’Zogbia’s stinging shot had bounced up in the air follow Duke’s save.
Bradford always looked dangerous from set-pieces and they scored their second of the game 10 minutes later when Jones picked up the ball after Villa had cleared his initial corner.
The delivery was inch-perfect again and McArdle nipped in front of a static Villa defence to nod the ball past Given and send the home fans delirious.
Villa threw everything at Bradford and pulled a goal back through Weimann who bravely lifted a shot over the outrushing Duke and into the net.
But Bradford restored their two-goal cushion when McHugh crashed a header into the net from close range from another Jones corner.
By Timothy Abraham