ON a freezing night City slid out of the Capital One Cup as a three-goal salvo in the last 12 minutes from Aston Villa saw the Midlands side through to the semi-finals.
It had started so well for City when Steve Morison put them ahead in the first half, but his effort was immediately cancelled out by Brett Holman for the visitors.
After the break City had chances to take the lead but were undone when a combination of smart finishing and moments of defensive hesitancy saw Andreas Weimann net twice and Christian Benteke complete a 4-1 scoreline in injury time.
After the game City boss Chris Hughton told Canaries Player: “I can't complain because in the areas that mattered they were more clinical than we were. We had a great opportunity in the second half with Steve Morison and if that goes in it changes the game.
"We started well and got the goal, a really good goal, but we needed to be on the pitch longer wihout conceding in it and it gave them a lift."
He added: "We now need to make sure we get back to how we have been, back to basics - the lads need to make sure they have rest and recovery and we come out fighting here with a support behind us against a good Wigan side Saturday."
As he had promised before the game, Hughton did not make the wholesale changes to the starting line-up which was a feature of the wins over Scunthorpe, Doncaster and Tottenham in the preceding rounds.
Leon Barnett and Marc Tierney came in to join Russell Martin and Sebastien Bassong in the defence while the midfield featured Robert Snodgrass, Jonny Howson, Bradley Johnson and Anthony Pilkington.
Meanwhile in attack Steve Morison partnered skipper Grant Holt as City played two up front in a departure from the normal 4-2-3-1 formation.
A frantic start to the game saw both sides have chances to go in front in the space of the first two minutes.
First Morison’s cross-shot from the right caught Given scrambling across his goal and he was relieved to see the ball strike the upright and bounce to safety.
Within a minute at the other end Darren Bent raced on to a through-ball into City’s area but with only Bunn to beat he was denied by the City ‘keeper.
There was some concern in the sixth minute when Holt collapsed on the touchline after mis-kicking an attempted cross from the right, but he was able to continue after treatement.
A couple of minutes later Morison had a half-chance, advancing into the Villa box before dragging a left-foot effort across the face of goal from a tight angle.
Morison was not to be denied and duly fired City into the lead in the 17th minute, showing great strength to hold off a challenge before lifting the ball neatly over Given.
But City’s celebrations were short-lived, Holman blasting the Villans back on to level terms less than two minutes later with a crisp finish from the edge of City’s box.
On 25 minutes Bunn was called into action, keeping City level by with two fine saves in quick succession to deny first Lowton and then Benteke.
Villa were forced into making their first change of the game with only 35 minutes gone as Bent made way for Weimann.
Three minutes before the break Holman was denied by a good block from Bunn and then as City swept up the other end of the pitch Given got down well to tip a left-foot drive from Morison round the base of the post.
Half-time: Norwich City 1, Aston Villa 1
In the 48th minute there was a great attack from City as an excellent cross from Snodgrass was headed inches over by Holt.
A minute later Morison nearly scored his second lob of the game, latching on to Holt’s pass before lifting the ball just over the bar.
In the next attack he did find the net, but a late flag from the assistant referee cut short the celebrations.
Ironically Villa experienced the same false dawn a moment later as Benteke stooped to head the ball past Bunn only for the flag to be raised again for offside.
Shay Given was not having the most comfortable of nights dealing with back-passes from his team-mates and he was nearly undone in the 57th minute, when his clearance was charged down by Holt who then fired into the side netting from a very tight angle.
In the 72nd minute Lambert made his second switch of the night as N’Zogbia came on for Holman.
The Canaries thought they had taken the lead as Holt’s powerful header from a Snodgrass corner seemed to be going in only for Given to acrobatically push it on to the bar.
But in the 78th minute it was Villa who took the lead when a cross from Lichaj eluded Barnett and Weimann coolly slotted home from 12 yards.
Hughton responded by making a change, Simeon Jackson coming on for Morison.
City’s defence was caught dithering in the 85th and paid the highest price, hesitation allowing Benteke to nip in and then cut the perfect ball back for Weimann to fire home his second of the game.
And a devastating, match-winning spell for Villa was complete in the 91st minute as Benteke emphatically crashed home a fourth from the edge of the area.
Final score: Norwich City 1 Aston Villa 4
Norwich City: Bunn, Martin, Johnson, Bassong, Snodgrass, Howson (E.Bennett 86), Holt (c), Pilkington, Morison (Jackson 79), Barnett, Tierney. Subs not used: Rudd, Turner, Fox, Garrido, Francomb.
Aston Villa: Given, Clark (c), El Ahmadi, Bent (Weimann 35), Holman (N’Zogbia 72), Delph, Benteke, Lichaj, Herd, Baker, Lowton. Subs not used: Guzan, Agbonlahor, Albrighton, Bannan, Williams.
Referee: Michael Oliver