Doomed Rotherham United slipped to another Championship defeat but held Aston Villa up until the 68th minute at the New York Stadium.
An own goal from Will Vaulks eventually broke the deadlock before a Jonathan Kodjia strike sealed the win for Villa late on.
Rotherham are now winless in nine games and their fight against the drop is almost over as they suffered a 26th defeat of the season.
Paul Warne's men are 18 points adrift of safety and it is just a matter of time until their return to League One is confirmed.
"Hand on heart they were better than us and deserved the win," interim boss Warne said.
"My job and remit off the chairman is to win as many games as I can and send the fans home happy. The lads gave me everything but it wasn't enough to get the goals to win the game.
"I don't claim to be a super manager, the lads are giving me everything they have got, but we haven't possibly got that little bit of class.
"I am proud of the way they played at the end but I am disappointed with another defeat. We are doing everything to stop the rot so as long as people can appreciate it."
There is nothing to cure travel sickness better than a trip to the home of the country's leakiest defence and Villa set about attacking Rotherham from the off.
They somehow failed to take the lead in the 10th minute when Birkir Bjarnason could not force the ball home three yards out as the Millers defended well on the line and goalkeeper Lewis Price then saved well from Conor Hourihane's low shot.
Price was again Rotherham's saviour in the 26th minute as he denied Albert Adomah when the Villa winger was in one-on-one after he capitalised on an error from Aimen Belaid.
Belaid soon atoned for that mistake, though, as Villa kept pressing, with the Millers defender heroically hooking the ball off the line when Adomah had again got in and lifted the ball over Price.
Villa, having been restricted, struggled to reproduce that level of creativity immediately after the break and the game descended into a dull affair, low on quality.
Bruce's men eventually found the breakthrough midway through the second half, but there was little quality involved.
Kodjia broke down the right, fed Adomah whose ball across the face of goal was inadvertently turned in at the far post by Millers defender Vaulks.
That goal sprung life into Villa and they were soon pushing for a second with Jordan Amavi testing Price with a curling effort before Hourihane sent another shot drifting just wide.
Hourihane then wasted their best chance to make it 2-0 when he was set free by Kodjia's header but he put his shot agonisingly wide.
Villa's failure to put the game to bed threatened to come back and haunt them as Rotherham launched a spirited attempt to get a point, with Anthony Forde testing Sam Johnstone with a low effort.
The visitors did eventually make it easy for themselves as Kodjia scored a breakaway second in the 87th minute when he shot in off the post from the edge of the area.