Derby County secured their third consecutive victory at Pride Park Stadium with a 3-2 win over Birmingham City, in an enthralling 90 minutes of football in front of the Sky Sports cameras.
Conor Sammon’s first-half header opened the scoring, before a frantic 45 minutes followed.
It looked as though the Rams were going to be made to pay for the missed opportunities as Marlon King levelled proceedings from the penalty spot in the 73rd minute.
However, Sammon’s left-footed volley momentarily restored Derby’s lead, before Peter Lovenkrands equalised moments later with a glancing header.
But it was the Rams’ night at Pride Park, as Michael Jacobs teed up Nathan Tyson to tap home in the 84th minute and send the home supporters into euphoria.
Derby took the game to the visitors in the opening period as Jacobs’ eagle-eyed through ball found Theo Robinson, but the striker could not quite escape the advances of Curtis Davies, who eventually cleared to safety.
Birmingham’s first opportunity of the game arrived in the fifth minute when Nikola Zigic’s perfectly weighted chest down to Ravel Morrison was then lashed wide by the former Manchester United midfielder.
Although the Rams were dominating possession, it was the Blues who came closest to an opener in the first half-an-hour, when some neat interplay on the edge of the penalty area eventually found a way through to former Burnley winger Wade Elliott, but the midfielder could only fire into the side netting.
However, as the half went on, Derby began to convert their long spells of possession into chances, and the home side almost took the lead when Craig Bryson latched onto a through ball, and sent a low drive that looked destined for the bottom corner. But the Scottish international was superbly thwarted by a reflex save from Butland, as well as the assistant referee who raised his flag to indicate Bryson had strayed into an offside position.
Bryson’s effort proved to be a sign of things to come, as in the 31st minute the Rams made the elusive breakthrough. The lively Jacobs escaped his marker down the left and cut inside before seeing his fierce drive tipped onto the post by Butland. Fortunately for the Rams, the onrushing Sammon was on hand to nod the loose ball home and send the home supporters into raptures.
Before the half was up, Bryson fired narrowly over the crossbar after picking up John Brayford’s cut-back, before Robinson flashed a header into the side netting following Jacobs’ left-wing corner, as the Rams ended the opening 45 minutes firmly in control.
The Rams had to stand firm in the opening three minutes of the second half, as Zigic’s and Morrison’s low strikes were superbly blocked by Richard Keogh and Jake Buxton respectively, whilst Legzdins had to react quickly to deny Marlon King after the former Watford man broke clear of Derby’s offside trap.
Then substitute Robert Hall almost made an instant impact for the Blues just one minute after replacing Chris Burke. The West Ham loanee fizzed a low shot across the face of goal that dropped inches wide of the far post.
Shortly after the hour mark it was the Rams’ turn to have a flurry of efforts at goal, as Bryson fed Robinson only for the former Millwall forward to blaze over, before Will Hughes’ swerving drive from 25-yards was beaten away by Butland.
However, Derby were made to pay for their missed opportunities as Hall jinked past three players before being brought down by the trailing leg of Keogh. King stepped up confidently and rolled the resulting spot-kick into the net, sending Legzdins the wrong way.
King almost doubled his and the Blues’ goal tally moments later when he latched onto Zigic’s flick on, only to send a curling 20-yard effort via Keogh onto the top of the crossbar.
A frantic 15 minutes then followed as the Rams initially retook the lead when Sammon’s low volley bounced up off the turf and crept past the despairing dive of Butland.
But in the 82nd minute Birmingham drew level for the second time in the game when Jonathan Spector’s cross was met by the glancing head of Lovenkrands.
Two minutes the Rams were back in front, and this time they would not be pegged back. Jacobs teed up Tyson inside the six-yard box, leaving the 30-year-old with the simplest of chances to tap home and restore Derby’s advantage, and in turn secure all three points.
Derby County: Legzdins (GK); Brayford, Keogh, Buxton, Roberts; Coutts, Bryson, Hughes (Hendrick 90), Jacobs (O’Brien 90); Robinson (Tyson 72), Sammon.
Subs Not Used: Fielding (GK); O'Connor, Freeman, Bennett.
Birmingham City: Butland (GK); Spector, Caldwell, Davies, Robinson; Burke (Hall 60), Mullins, Morrison, Elliott (Lovenkrands 68); Zigic, King.
Subs Not Used: Doyle (GK), Ibanez, Diop, Hancox, Reilly.
Attendance: 21,505 (1,571 Visiting Supporters).