BIRMINGHAM, England (REUTERS) - Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe described the atmosphere at the stadium as toxic after his side virtually relegated seven-times champions Aston Villa with a 2-1 away victory on Saturday.
Goals from Steve Cook on the stroke of halftime and Joshua King after 74 minutes meant Howe's Premier League newcomers guaranteed themselves a second top-flight season.
The win avenged an opening-day home defeat by Villa in August when few would have guessed Bournemouth might be safe by April and that the Premier League ever-presents would be all but down.
Villa's fans, resigned to their team's fate, booed several of their players even though Norwich City's 1-0 defeat at Crystal Palace means the former European champions are not officially relegated yet.
Hundreds had arrived at their seats seven minutes late to protest against the club's steady decline while white handkerchiefs were waved towards the end.
One Villa Park banner read: "No pride, no fight, no effort, no hope".
Howe said: "It was a difficult game to play in because of the toxic atmosphere. We made it that way with the way we started.
"I don't think you can blame the supporters for their reaction but I'm sure there will be better times ahead."
Stand-in boss Eric Black, put in charge after Remi Garde became Villa's second managerial casualty of the season last month, struggled to find positives after an eighth league defeat in a row left his team 15 points behind fourth from bottom Norwich with five games left.
"Not going down today is a small consolation," he told the BBC.
"We've conceded poor goals but we have to remain professional until the end.
"I'm sure it's not easy to play in that atmosphere but... I won't be criticising the supporters.
"They turned out again today which I find remarkable. This is certainly not down to the supporters."
Villa's relegation will be confirmed if they fail to beat Manchester United next Saturday.