A devastating 15-minute spell in which Aston Villa scored four goals and could have had even more helped them back into the race for fourth spot with a 5-2 win over struggling Burnley.

The Clarets have just one point from their away trips this season and had taken an unlikely lead through Steven Fletcher, but fell apart after the interval with some awful defending costing them any chance of a result.

Stewart Downing helped himself to a brace, while Ashley Young, Gabby Agbonlahor and Emile Heskey also got themselves on the scoresheet.

There was no sign of the carnage to come later on as Villa failed to get a grip on the game in the first half.

Indeed, Burnley had started the brighter side, yet it was still a surprise when they took the lead.

On loan midfielder Jack Cork, making his first start for the club, played a smart through ball inside the channel for David Nugent, who kept his head to pick out strike partner Fletcher at the back post for a tap in.

It was disarming in its simplicity and Burnley perhaps thought the rest of the afternoon would be so easy.

However, sloppy defending allowed the hosts to level the scores before the break.

A cacophony of errors led to the equaliser from Young. First Bikey needlessly conceded a free-kick in a dangerous position and then goalkeeper Brian Jensen decided not to collect the cross, instead punching it out for a corner.

Burnley were slow to react to the short one and Young knocked the ball vaguely goalwards from the edge of the area, with Danny Fox and Jensen both failing to get enough on the powder puff effort to stop it creeping in.

That failure to keep things tight until the break seemed to affect the Clarets and when Villa found a second gear, though they never needed to look for a third, Burnley were unable to cope at the back.

Burnley were all too easily opened up by Young all game and it was the England winger who made the second goal, slipping the ball to Downing who finished calmly past Jensen.

Moments later the match was over as a contest. Jensen saved well from Agbonlahor but could do nothing about Downing’s follow-up, which flew in off Fox.

A fourth soon came when Agbonlahor raced away to set up Heskey as Burnley embarrassingly fell apart.

And the pacy striker got his own goal after good work by Milner to complete the scoring.

In truth, Villa could have easily had double figures had they continued to press on. But with half an away on the Carling Cup final, they took they foot off the gas and substitue Martin Paterson was able to grab a late consolation, his first Premier League goal, to make the final result seem less one-sided than it actually was.

Villa barely needed to turn up to destroy the luckless Clarets, who will need to find a way of picking up a result on the road if they are to have any chance of survival.