Leicester City sparked a dramatic comeback at the King Power Stadium as two goals in three second-half minutes from Anthony Knockaert and Danny Drinkwater ended Derby County’s Capital One Cup run.
Chris Martin’s sixth goal of the campaign after 42 minutes handed the Rams a first-half lead, when the striker pounced at the far post to turn in Johnny Russell’s cut-back.
However, in a frantic 180 seconds from the 78th minute to the 81st, Leicester completed a remarkable turnaround.
Firstly, substitute Knockaert rifled a stunning 35-yard free-kick in off the underside of the bar to draw the Foxes level, before Drinkwater’s flick at goal took numerous deflections prior to ending up in the back of the net, as the Foxes secured their path into the Fourth Round of the competition.
Leicester fielded a starting line-up that contained eight changes from the side that drew 2-2 with Blackpool at the weekend, with six of those making their home debut for the Foxes, whilst Rams boss Nigel Clough implemented just three.
Prior to kick-off the Rams boasted an unbeaten record on the road this season in all competitions, winning four, drawing one and netting a total of 13 goals in the process.
However, their start to the game at the King Power Stadium suggested anything but an almost immaculate away record, as from kick-off, Paul Coutts’ loose pass between Jake Buxton and Craig Bryson was picked up by Jeff Schlupp. The pacey striker raced forward but could not capitalise on the Rams’ error, as his subsequent drive was blocked.
Derby’s lackadaisical start to the match continued from the resulting throw-in. Schlupp launched the ball into the penalty area, which was flicked towards goal by Tom Hopper, but it was thankfully hacked off the line by a well-positioned Kieron Freeman.
The Rams regained their composure and began to impose their game on the hosts, and almost took the lead when Coutts’ low drive was beaten away by Kasper Schmeichel at the goalkeeper’s near post.
Buxton and Bryson then had an opportunity apiece inside 120 seconds for Derby to open the scoring, as the defender’s downward header from Coutts’ corner was cleared off the line, whilst the Scottish midfielder displayed nifty footwork on the edge of the penalty area before drawing a fine save from Schmeichel.
After an impressive response following an anxious opening, Derby were dealt an injury blow on the 35 minute mark, as Coutts had to be withdrawn with a knee injury.
Ben Davies replaced the former Preston North End midfielder, and almost had an instant impact when he lashed over a fierce half-volley at full stretch.
But the Rams’ continued pressure finally turned lucrative with three minutes to spare in the first-half. Russell escaped past a nervous Zoumana Bakayogo down the right before cutting the ball back. Fellow striker Martin was the appreciative recipient at the far post, who took one touch to steady himself, prior to sweeping the ball into the bottom corner.
Foxes boss Nigel Pearson rang the changes at half-time, with David Nugent and Lloyd Dyer introduced in place of Bakayogo and Hopper to provide a fresh attacking impetus.
And Nugent was handed an early sight of goal when Gary Taylor-Fletcher squared the ball for the forward, but the former Portsmouth striker’s stabbed effort lacked conviction, as Lee Grant comfortably gathered.
Derby continued their high pressing, energetic style, but as Leicester chased an equaliser, they were forced to play more of a counter-attacking style in the second half, with Hughes deployed slightly deeper replacing the role of the injured Coutts.
Playing on the break almost forced a second for the Rams when Craig Forsyth’s drilled cross into the box found the darting run of Russell, but the former Dundee United striker diverted the delivery agonisingly past the near post.
However, the hosts continued to ferret forward and one particular foray into the Rams’ half ended in former Manchester United midfielder Drinkwater crashing a 20-yard drive inches wide.
But Drinkwater’s effort was just taster of what was about to come. As in the 78th minute, Knockaert stood over a free-kick 35-yards from goal and sent an absolute blockbuster in off the underside of the bar.
It went from the sublime to the ridiculous in the matter of three minutes, as Leicester compounded the Rams’ misery. James’ devilish free-kick was flicked goalwards by Drinkwater. The ball ricocheted off of two Derby players, before landing in the back of the net.
Derby pressed for a later leveller, but could not find a way past a invigorated Leicester, with Martin coming closest late on with a tame drive towards goal that Schmeichel held comfortably.
Derby County: Grant (GK), Freeman, Keogh, Buxton, Forsyth, Coutts (Davies 28’), Bryson, Hughes (Jacobs 90'), Russell Sammon, Martin.
Subs Not Used: Deeney (GK), Smith, Bennett, Eustace, Ward.
Leicester City: Schmeichel (GK); Moore, Wasilewski, Miquel, Bakayogo (Dyer 46'); Hammond, James, Drinkwater; Taylor-Fletcher (Knockaert 63’), Hopper (Nugent 46'), Schlupp.
Subs Not Used: Logan (GK), De Laet, Konchesky, Whitbread.
Attendance: 14,043 (2,209 visiting supporters).