Derby County displayed both fluent attacking football and defensive steal to overcome Peterborough United 3-1 at Pride Park Stadium.
Goals from Craig Bryson, Chris Martin and Richard Keogh swept the Rams into a seemingly comfortable and unassailable three-goal lead inside 55 minutes.
However, the Posh found a way back into the game on the hour, when goalkeeper Frank Fielding was deemed the last man when he was sent off for a foul on Dwight Gale in the penalty area.
Grant McCann handed the visitors a lifeline when he placed the resulting penalty into the bottom corner, past substitute Adam Legzdins, but the Rams stood firm to deny the visitors’ attempts at a revival.
A common angst amongst managers throughout the Football League is just how difficult an opposing club - that are embroiled in the relegation dog fight – can be to break down.
However, against Ipswich Town at Pride Park in recent weeks, despite the 0-1 scoreline, the Rams found themselves mounting barrage after barrage of attacks against the npower Championship relegation battlers, before Carlos Edwards struck in stoppage time to seal a dramatic and undeserved winner for the visitors.
The Rams’ faithful could be forgiven for feeling a sense of déjà vu at their home ground against Peterborough United, as in the opening half-an-hour the hosts steamrollered their opponents.
After just two minutes Derby had hit the frame of the goal, when former Posh midfielder Paul Coutts’ cross-come-shot cannoned off the post, before the Scot then saw his goalbound shot blocked five minutes later.
Wave after wave of attack continued, with Conor Sammon coming within inches of scoring one of the goals of the season. The Irish international beat two players and looked to have measured his subsequent curling 25-yard effort to perfection, but with Olejnick beaten, the ball dropped agonisingly wide of the post.
A plethora of goal-scoring opportunities followed as Martin, Craig Forsyth and Coutts all had efforts of their own, before the decisive blow eventually arrived in the 41st minute through Bryson.
Former Wigan Athletic forward Sammon escaped down the left-hand side prior to cutting the ball back to former Kilmarnock teammate Bryson, who swept the ball into the roof of the net from close-range.
Before the half was up, Darren Ferguson’s side mounted their first real attack of the half, and almost reaped the rewards when leading scorer Gale found a pocket of space and drilled a low shot wide from a tight angle.
Gale’s effort combined with the introduction of McCann and Nathaniel Mendez-Laing at the break injected a dose of belief into Ferguson’s side in the opening stages of the second half, with substitute McCann’s deflected shot falling narrowly wide of Fielding’s far post.
But the riposte from Peterborough lasted a matter of five minutes, as Coutts’ deflected shot was brought down and volleyed into the bottom corner by Norwich City loanee Martin.
Two minutes later, Derby executed their seventeenth corner of the afternoon to perfection; Ward’s deft set-piece was flicked on by Jake Buxton at the near post and nodded into the net by Keogh at the far.
However, in the 60th minute, a potential defining, game-changing incident occurred in the visitor’s favour. Gayle raced clean through on goal and got the decisive touch away from Fielding, only for the Rams’ shot-stopper to bring the former Dagenham and Redbridge striker to his knees.
Fielding was subsequently sent off for his professional foul, whilst the experienced half-time substitute McCann dispatched the spot-kick beyond the reach of Adam Legzdins.
Despite the visitors' best efforts - with McCann and Mendez-Laing testing Legzdins - Derby defended astutely and sealed all three points, which in turn ensured that they will be playing npower Championship football next season.
Derby County: Fielding; Brayford, Keogh, Buxton, Forsyth; Coutts, Hendrick, Bryson (Hughes 85), Ward (Davies 76); Sammon Martin (Legzdins 62).
Subs not used: Legzdins, Freeman, Bennett, Gjokaj, Jacobs.
Peterborough United: Olejnick; Alcock, Knight-Percival, Zakuani (McCann 46), Brisley; Swanson (Pritchard 64), Ferdinand (Mendez-Laing 46), Payne, Rowe; Tomlin, Gayle.
Subs not used: Day, Barnett, Ntlhe, Cuvelier.
Attendance: 23,753 (1,788 visiting supporters)