Jack Hobbs’ stooping first-half header earned Nottingham Forest their first three points over Derby County since January 2011.
Robert Earnshaw’s late goal at Pride Park Stadium was enough to separate the two sides that day, but this time, Hull City loanee Hobbs headed in Andy’s Reid’s corner to seal the victory at the City Ground.
In fixture jam-packed of talking points, Derby captain Richard Keogh was brandished a red card in the second half when he was deemed to have fouled Chris Cohen in the penalty area.
Darius Henderson’s resulting spot-kick was brilliantly kept out by goalkeeper Lee Grant, but as the Rams pressed forward looking for an elusive equaliser late in the game, the Reds almost put the match beyond any doubt when Reid raced clean through on goal in stoppage time, only to be denied by the shot-stopper.
In a deafening bowl of atmosphere at the City Ground, possession interchanged fleetingly in what was a nervous start from both teams, as the ball spent the majority of the opening two minutes in the air.
In possession, Derby had Jamie Ward flitting around behind the front two of Johnny Russell and Chris Martin, whilst without the ball, the Rams had a compact midfielder five with Ward moving out to the left, Will Hughes to the right, and Martin dropping deeper to prevent Guy Moussi from starting attacks.
It was a tight and anxious first 10 minutes, which included one opening for the hosts when Radoslaw Majewski edged towards goal and flashed a drive from 20-yards that Grant expertly tipped around the post.
From the resulting corner, the Rams sprung a swift counter-attack, as Russell picked out Craig Bryson on the edge of the box. The Scottish midfielder tried to square the ball to an unmarked Hughes, but Danny Collins was on hand to gobble up the loose pass.
Collins’ central defensive partner Hobbs then had to perform as last ditch tackle on Ward in the 17th minute as the forward tried to dig the ball out of his feet in the penalty area, after neat interplay from the Northern Irish international and Martin.
Midfielder Bryson topped off a dominant spell of football from the Rams when he crashed a 25-yard swerving shot off the turf, but his effort, unlike his stunning strikes at the Den, fell narrowly wide of the far post.
American right-back Eric Lihaj saw a curling effort deflect narrowly over the crossbar in the 40th minute for the hosts, after cutting in from the right, and marked the start of a flurry of attacking moves from the Reds.
From the resulting corner 60 seconds later, Hobbs’ clever run was picked out by Reid’s in swinging corner, as the Hull City loanee darted to the near post and crashed his header past Grant.
Derby had Grant to thank in added time in the first-half to ensure the Rams’ misery was not compounded. The former Burnley player stood up as long as possible and pulled off a terrific reflex save to deny Jamie Mackie, who tried to clip the ball over the goalkeeper.
The match tightened up in the second period with opportunities remaining at a premium, although Darius Henderson ghosted into the penalty area unmarked in the 60th minute and inexplicably headed Reid’s pinpoint cross wide from six-yards out.
The Rams responded when Ward fed a short corner to Hughes; the England Under-21 international waltzed into the box and cut the ball back to Martin, who thrashed a shot over the crossbar.
Hughes then had a tame 20-yard free-kick plucked out of the air by Karl Darlow following a rash foul on Adam Smith in the 70th minute by Djamel Abdoun, which earned the winger a yellow card.
But once again, Derby’s hard work and attacking guile was almost undone with one fell swoop when in a quick counter attack, Keogh slid in on Chris Cohen in the penalty area. The former Coventry City skipper was penalised for and shown a second yellow card by referee Simon Hooper.
Henderson took responsibility from the penalty spot, but as he nonchalantly stroked the ball towards the bottom corner, Grant guessed the right way and clawed the ball around the post in the 80th minute.
The Rams' riposte saw Jake Buxton’s long ball forward flicked on by Martin, and brought down by Conor Sammon. The Republic of Ireland international took one touch and swept a left-footed half-volley at goal, but it was well held by Darlow.
In the final seconds of the game, Forest almost made completely sure of the points when Reid latched onto substitute Greg Halford’s through ball, but the midfielder was denied by Grant again.
Derby County: Grant (GK), Smith, Keogh, Buxton, Forsyth, Eustace, Bryson, Hughes, Ward (Jacobs 90’), Martin, Russell (Sammon 58').
Subs Not Used: Deeney (GK), Gjokaj, Freeman, Bennett, Davies.
Nottingham Forest: Darlow (GK), Lichaj, Collins, Hobbs, Cohen, Moussi (Harding 16’), Lansbury, Reid, Mackie, Henderson (Halford 82’), Majewski (Abdoun 65’).
Subs Not Used: De Vries (GK), Jara, Derbyshire, Cox.
Attendance: 28,276 (1,951 visiting supporters).