Two second half goals from Will Hughes and Chris Martin were enough to secure all three points for the Rams against Bournemouth at the iPro Stadium, leaving them just one point away from the top of the Sky Bet Championship table.
It was a promising first half for the Rams and one in which they saw the lions’ share of the ball, dictating the play and creating numerous chances to take the lead against the visitors.
But for all their good passing and build up play, Derby couldn’t find a way through as a well-drilled Bournemouth team defended impressively with former-Ram Lee Camp making a couple of important saves.
The second half would be remembered for a controversial incident that saw the Rams awarded a free kick after they’d already put the ball in the net.
Former Ram Lee Camp was dismissed for clattering into Jamie Ward as he went clear on goal and despite the foul, the Derby forward’s shot found the back of the net, but Scott Mathieson had already whistled for a Rams free kick.
Derby couldn’t score from the subsequent free kick as Martin crashed his shot against the post, but any feelings of injustice faded away ten minutes from time as the home side made the most of their numerical advantage.
After some patient build up play around the edge of the box, Martin pulled the ball back for Hughes who controlled well before drilling a shot past substitute ‘keeper, Darryl Flahavan to break the deadlock.
And in stoppage time, Derby rounded off their evening when Johnny Russell found himself in acres of space down the left before putting in a low cross, which Martin poked home from close range, to double the lead and guarantee the win.
Derby started the game brightly, spending most of the opening minutes camped out in their opponents’ half and Martin looked to open the scoring early on when he shot from the edge of the area, but his effort missed Camp’s top left corner.
With ten minutes gone, Ward broke down the left and whipped a great low ball across the box. Bournemouth were able to scramble the ball away, but only as far as Bryson who fired over under pressure.
Cyrus Christie earned applause from the iPro Stadium crowd when he skinned the Bournemouth right back and smashed an inviting ball across the face of goal, but no one in a white shirt could get close enough to turn it in.
Bournemouth then went close themselves through Callum Wilson when Andrew Surman played him through on goal, but his shot was weak and Grant dropped on the ball to make an easy save.
Almost immediately, Derby went up the other end and when the ball came to Bryson, he charged towards goal and hit a powerful shot that had Camp sprawling to his right to keep it out.
Moments later, Bryson volleyed a shot goalwards, which Bournemouth’s Steve Cook could only slice over his own bar. From the subsequent corner Bryson delivered a ball to Keogh who powered a header narrowly over.
Christie was causing the visitors’ problems and he almost opened the scoring himself in the 38th minute when he skilfully beat two defenders before lashing a shot across goal that was a whisker away from the bottom left corner.
With just three minutes of the half remaining, Hughes almost managed to break the deadlock when he ran onto a loose ball and looked to curl a shot beyond Camp, but the Bournemouth ‘keeper got across quickly to make a good stop.
The second half started much more cagily with neither side wanting to concede the initiative and the opening 20 minutes passed more or less without incident, but the game soon sparked into life in the 68th minute.
In confusing scenes, Ward went clear on goal, before being clattered into by the on-rushing Camp, but despite the foul on the Derby man, the ball ricocheted off him and trickled into the back of Bournemouth’s net.
As Ward wheeled away in celebration, the referee showed the Bournemouth ‘keeper a straight red card before signalling a Rams’ free kick, much to the consternation of Ward and his team mates, who believed they’d already scored.
From the free kick, Martin curled a right footed shot towards goal, which smashed against the upright and out of play as boos rang out around the stadium with Derby supporters making it clear they though justice hadn’t been done.
But the Rams' frustration would be short-lived as minutes later, Martin passed the ball to Hughes in the Bournemouth box and the midfielder took a touch before thumping a shot into the roof of the net to put his side ahead.
Bournemouth almost dampened the Rams’ mood in the dying minutes as a left wing cross from Marc Pugh was almost met by the head of Yann Kermorgant, but Grant reacted quickly to get out and snatch the ball away just in time.
And in injury time, Martin made sure of a Derby win when he thumped home Russell’s cross from close range to score his seventh of the season and send the Derby supporters home happy.
Derby County: Grant, Christie, Keogh, Shotton, Forsyth, Eustace (Best 73’), Bryson, Hughes, Ibe (Russell 45’), Ward (Hendrick 74’), Martin
Substitutes not used: Mitchell, Naylor, Whitbread, Mascarell
Bournemouth: Camp, Francis, Elphick, Cook, Harte, Arter (Kermorgant 86’), O’Kane, Surman, Ritchie, Wilson (Flahavan 67’), Stanislas (Pugh 56’)
Substitutes not used: Daniels, Smith, Gosling, Pitman