Derby County suffered only their second defeat in nine games as goals from Liam Feeney and Andy Keogh either side of Will Hughes’ 25-yard thunderbolt sealed a 2-1 victory for Millwall at The Den.
The Lions took the lead in controversial circumstances when Feeney fired past goalkeeper Adam Legdzins – who by the Derby back-line was deemed to be in an offside position.
In the second half, Hughes celebrated his England Under-21 call-up earlier this week with a spectacular strike from distance.
However, Millwall secured all three points in the 76th minute, when Keogh found room in the Derby penalty area to curl the ball past Legzdins into the corner of the net.
The Rams went into this afternoon’s fixture looking for their third consecutive League victory for the first time since January.
Despite some neat passing from Will Hughes and some trademark lung-busting runs from Craig Bryson, Derby had to stand firm in the opening 20 minutes, as Liam Trotter’s swerving shot forced Adam Legzdins
into an early save before Chris Taylor got the wrong side of James O’Connor and put a tantalising ball across the face of goal that was just inches away from the onrushing Chris Wood.
The West Bromwich Albion loanee then saw his low drive well saved and a header flash over the crossbar from Feeney’s right-wing corner.
However, the Rams looked remained resolute at the back, and it was only a controversial decision that allowed Millwall to take the lead.
Former Oldham Athletic winger Taylor whipped in a low cross from the left that evaded Wood but was fired into the roof of the net by Feeney. However, the assistant referee on the far side raised his flag to indicate there was an offside in the build-up. But to the Rams’ dismay, after long discussions, referee Darren Drysdale overruled his assistant and gave the goal.
Derby’s frustration grew as the half went on when Drysdale denied Paul Coutts a penalty after Scotsman looked to have been felled by Sheffield Wednesday loanee Mark Beevers.
Although it was a solid opening period for Derby, the side’s only attempt on goal of the first 45 minutes arrived on the stroke of half-time when captain Richard Keogh advanced forward and fired a rising shot over the crossbar.
Two minutes into the second-half, John Brayford came to the Rams’ rescue as he took the ball off the toes of striker Andy Keogh, just as the former Wolverhampton Wanderers striker was about the pull the trigger.
Despite an early scare, Derby began to grow in confidence and Conor Sammon tried his luck from 20-yards after cleverly making room for himself on the edge of the box, but the former Wigan Athletic striker’s effort flew over the crossbar.
And in the 52nd the Rams’ second-half persistence was rewarded when Hughes picked up the ball 25-yards from goal and sent it crashing into the top corner past goalkeeper David Forde.
The Lions almost retook the lead just 12 minutes later when the impressive Wood found a way past O’Connor and fired low towards goal past the attentions of Legzdins, but fortunately for the Rams, Keogh was on hand to hack the ball off the goal-line away to safety.
Then seconds later substitute Scott Malone crossed from the left for Wood, who side-footed wide at the near post.
Wood’s double effort proved a warning sign as with just 14 minutes remaining, Millwall went ahead for the second time of the game.
The Rams failed to clear from inside their own penalty area, and Andy Keogh took full advantage to delicately curl the ball past Legzdins.
In the dying embers of the game, Derby through everything at the hosts and were denied a late penalty when Robinson looked to have been fouled by Adam Smith.
Substitute Michael Jacobs tested Forde with a swerving 20-yard effort, but the Rams could not find an elusive equaliser as the Lions held on for maximum points.
Derby County: Legzdins (GK); Brayford, Keogh, O'Connor, Roberts; Coutts, Bryson, Hendrick, Hughes; Robinson, Sammon (Jacobs 81).
Subs Not Used: Deeney (GK), Tyson, Freeman, O'Brien, Davies, Buxton.
Millwall: Forde (GK); Smith, Lowry, Abdou, Shittu, Beevers, Feeney, Trotter, Keogh, Wood, Taylor (Malone 45).
Subs Not Used: M. Taylor (GK), Smith, Osborne, N'Guessan, Batt, Wright.