The Rams were denied their 500th home win in second-level league football this afternoon, as Burnley sealed a surprise 2-1 victory at Pride Park Stadium.
Jamie Ward’s 20th minute volley – his fourth of the campaign opened the scoring, before Charlie Austin fired the visitors back on level terms just 12 minutes later.
Despite spells of heavy pressure in the second-half, the Rams could not find the desired breakthrough, and were left ruing their missed opportunities in front of goal as Austin completed his brace with a close-range header in the final minutes.
There was an early scare for the Rams in the opening four minutes, as Martin Paterson escaped down the left, only to see his curling right-footed effort headed clear by Gareth Roberts.
Three minutes later former West Ham United man Junior Stanislas looked dangerous as he burst from midfield, past Craig Bryson, but his subsequent 20-yard effort was expertly blocked by captain Richard Keogh.
However, after the away side’s early chances, the Rams started to take control of proceedings as Will Hughes forced a good save from Lee Grant with a half-volley, whilst Bryson’s close-range header lacked conviction following Paul Coutts’ delivery.
Nigel Clough’s side continued to dictate the game with their high tempo pressing style, and with 20 minutes gone on the clock, Ward struck his fourth of campaign to hand the Rams the lead.
After Coutts’ corner was initially cleared by the Burnley defence, the former Preston North End midfielder picked out Jeff Hendrick. The Irish under-21 international steadied himself before rolling the ball into the area towards Ward, who sent a low volley into the bottom corner, past the despairing dive of Grant.
Summer-signing Conor Sammon was unfortunate not to double the home side’s score-line after firstly firing into the side netting after John Brayford’s low cross, before seeing his second effort fall agonisingly wide of the far post – with the Derby County faithful on their feet.
However, against the run of play, Howe’s men found themselves back on level terms shortly after the half-an-hour mark through Austin.
The former Swindon Town striker picked up the ball just inside the Rams’ penalty area and from what seemed a tight angle, Austin lashed the ball past Frank Fielding.
After three straight defeats away from Turf Moor this season, the Clarets grew in confidence after Austin’s leveller, and almost found themselves ahead through Ben Mee, but the former Manchester City defender crashed his header against the crossbar.
Just a minute after the restart, Hughes sent a deflected effort from the edge of the penalty area narrowly wide of goal, whilst Brayford’s looping volley moments later dropped the wrong side of the crossbar.
Then Ward curled an effort wide of the far post after good work from Bryson, before the former Sheffield United man turned provider and sent a low ball towards the onrushing Sammon, but the 25-year-old striker could not quite get a toe end of the ball as it fizzed past him.
The Rams continued to dominate the possession stakes, and with 20 minutes remaining the lively Ward sent a devilish cross towards the far post, but the resulting glancing header from Hendrick dropped wide of goal.
With the crowd well and truly behind Clough’s men, Derby continued in their search for a winner and almost found one through Bryson. Sammon glided past three Burnley defenders before sending a perfectly weighted through ball for the Scottish international, but the midfielder was thwarted by an excellent stop by Grant.
And with just two minutes remaining, after soaking up heavy pressure from the Rams’ frontline, Howe’s side snatched all three points with a dramatic winner through Austin.
The 23-year-old rose highest the far post to nod past Fielding and secure the Clarets’ first away victory of the season.
In the final few seconds, the returning Jake Buxton saw a looping header cleared by Mee underneath his own crossbar, as Derby were left scratching their heads at the score-line.
Derby County: Fielding (GK); Brayford, Keogh, Buxton, Roberts; Coutts, Hendrick, Bryson, Hughes (Jacobs 77); Ward, Sammon (Robinson 80).
Subs Not Used: Legzdins (GK), O’Connor, Tyson, Doyle, Gjokaj.
Burnley: Grant (GK); Trippier, Edgar, Shackell, Mee; Marney, Wallace, McCann, Stanislas (Stewart 45); Austin, Paterson (Vokes 61).
Subs Not Used: Jensen (GK), Stock, Bartley, Mills, Long.