Derby County finally put an end to their Cardiff City hoodoo at the fifth time of asking, as Theo Robinson secured a point at Pride Park this evening - the least the very side deserved.
Heidar Helguson's close-range header got the table-toppers off to a flying start, however the Rams showed no fear and continuously pressed forward in search of an equaliser.
And following Craig Noone's 63rd minute dismissal, the Rams took full advantage six minutes later when Robinson netted his eighth of the campaign with a real poacher's effort inside the six-yard box.
The Rams were clearly undaunted by their table topping visitors, and within the opening four minutes, Nigel Clough’s side came within a whisker of taking the lead.
Richard Keogh leapt highest following Paul Coutts’ right-wing corner, but the skipper’s subsequent header was hacked off the line by former Brighton and Hove Albion winger Noone.
Then Will Hughes combined well down the left-hand side with Conor Sammon before fizzing a low ball into the area across the face of goal, which somehow managed to evade everyone.
However, against the run of play and with Cardiff City’s first venture into the Rams’ penalty area, Malky Mackay’s men took the lead in the eleventh minute.
Peter Whittingham’s teasing cross was met by captain Mark Hudson who sent a looping header towards goal. Goalkeeper Adam Legzdins
backpedalled and tipped the ball onto the crossbar, but Helguson reacted quickest to the rebound and headed home from inside the six-yard box.
The Rams reacted valiantly and almost made an immediate response to Helguson’s opener when Michael Jacobs cut inside and fired a warning shot that fell inches wide of David Marshall’s far post.
Then Robinson’s patient play down the right was almost rewarded when the 23-year-old eventually teed up Coutts, who in turn swept a low effort that looked destined for the bottom corner, but the midfielder’s effort was expertly tipped behind by Marshall.
Just as the fourth official indicated there would be two minutes of time added on, Jake Buxton nodded Coutts’ free-kick onto the roof of the net.
In the second-half the Rams started on top, and almost levelled the scoreline when Buxton sent Jacobs’ corner en route to goal, but the former Mansfield Town defender saw his effort hacked away to safety.
However, it was not all one-way traffic as Cardiff had a golden opportunity to double their advantage when Craig Bellamy latched onto a long ball over the top but could only blaze high and wide.
Just three minutes after Bellamy saw his chance go begging, the Rams were handed a major lifeline as Noone was sent off for his second bookable offence in the space of two minutes, following a late tackle on substitute James O’Connor.
And just six minutes after Noone received his marching order, Derby took full advantage. Scottish international Bryson escaped down the left and cut the ball back to Robinson, who bundled the ball over the line from inside the six-yard box.
The Rams pressed on in search of a winning goal and almost found one when Bryson sent a dipping half-volley that fell narrowly wide of goal, whilst right-back John Brayford saw a left-footed strike brilliantly saved and a header flash wide inside the space of 60 seconds.
Substitute Nathan Tyson almost turned his game on its head in the dying seconds, only to see his goal-bound header cleared off the line, as Cardiff held on for a point.
Derby County: Legzdins (GK); Brayford, Keogh, Buxton, Roberts (O’Connor 27); Coutts, Bryson, Hughes, Jacobs (Tyson 67); Robinson (Hendrick 82), Sammon.
Subs: Fielding (GK), Freeman, O'Brien, Davies.
Cardiff City: Marshall (GK), Connolly, Hudson, Nugent, Ralls, Bo-Kung, Whittingham, Gunnarsson (Conway 73), Noone, Bellamy (Mutch 70), Helguson (Mason 79).
Subs: Parish (GK), Kiss, Gestede, John.
Attendance: 20,911 (777 Visiting Supporters).