Albert Adomah scored two goals before half-time, but two Jordan Hugill stunners grabbed North End a deserved point in their first league game at Villa Park in well over 40 years.
Both first half goals were controversial to say the least. Firstly Gabriel Agbonlahor fouled Chris Maxwell to knock the ball out of his hands, to allow Adomah to poke home from a yard out, then the goalscorer threw himself to the deck in the penalty are, as Aiden McGeady cleanly robbed him of the ball, only to see referee Andy Madley award a penalty, which he got up and converted.
As strange as the first half goals, the two second half ones were pieces of brilliance; Hugill running 50 yards before curling into the top corner, before levelling matters with a stunning header from McGeady’s tantalising cross.
Daniel Johnson had returned to the starting XI against his former employers, Daryl Horgan making way, with Tommy Spurr replacing the suspended Greg Cunnngham at left back.
But the Villains started the brighter of the two teams, Andre Green heading wide in front of an open goal from five yards out after Agbonlahor had hooked a cross from the right touchline into open sace in the six yard box.
The opening goal came mid-way through the first half. The ball was threaded into the box down the left hand side and Maxwell came to claim, only for Agbonlahor to crash into him with a high foot, leaving the No.22 prone on the floor, but no whistle came from Mr Madley and Adomah poked the loose ball home from a yard out, with the yellows stood awaiting play to be called back for a free kick that never came.
Buoyed by their opener Steve Bruce’s side came forward down the flanks at regular intervals and Jordan Amavi’s overlapping run on the left found him space to cross in to the near post; Paul Huntington doing well to get a head in the way to block Agbonalor making it two from close range.
However, the lead was doubled and in even more bizarre circumstances than the first. Again the Villains attacked down the wings; this time on the right, but McGeady did brilliantly to track back and take the ball from Adomah, but the whistle blew without any Villa players even calling for a penalty and after discussing with the linesman, in a better position, Madley still gave the spot kick.
Adomah calmly smashed the ball into the top left hand corner, sending Maxwell the wrong way, but Simon Grayson’s men were left extremely aggrieved by the decisions that had gone against them in the opening 45 minutes.
The game was back alive on 64 minutes as North end broke with pace and power as Hugill went all the way from the centre circle right at the heart of the Villa defence before unleashing a superb curling effort into the top right hand corner of Sam Johnstone’s goal from 20 yards out.
It was nothing more than their second half reaction deserved, with Gallaher and McGeady at the heart of a front foot display that saw them moving the ball quicker and causing problems down the flanks the same way the home side had in the first period.
And the scores were level with 14 minutes left. McGeady and Gallagher combined for a short corner to give the Irishman space to curl a beautiful ball to the edge of the six yard box which found Hugill who powered a header into the same top corner he had earlier put the shot.
This was his last action, as he was already struggling to walk when he scored and was replacd by the returning Jermaine Beckford.
The best chance of the closing stages came with a long Spurr throw into the near post, when Alan Browne flicked a header goalwards; only for Johnstone to be alert and make a smart stop to keep his side level.
Aston Villa line-up: Johnstone, Baker, Lansbury (Bacuna, 77), Agbonlahor, Chester (c), Westwood, Green, Hutton, Amavi (Gardner, 88), Adomah, Grealish (Davis, 90). Subs not used: Bunn, Richards, Elphick, Tshibola.
PNE line-up: Maxwell, Vermijl, Spurr, Browne, Clarke (c), Huntington, Gallagher, Johnson, Robinson (Horgan, 60), Hugill (Beckford, 78), McGeady. Subs not used: Lindegaard, Makienok, Grimshaw, Pringle, Boyle.
Attendance: 32,415 (2,709 PNE fans)
Referee: Mr A Madley