DARREN BENT scored an injury time equaliser as Derby County fought back to claim a point against Brentford at the iPro Stadium.
Alex Pritchard drew first blood midway through the first half with a sublime effort, but despite their control and dominance, the visitors failed to score the all-important second goal.
Andre Gray, in particular, missed three glorious chances to kill the contest off, but Derby stayed in the contest and fought back to claim a point four minutes into added time as Bent converted Jeff Hendrick’s miscued shot.
The Rams’ opening dominance distorted what unravelled into a difficult afternoon for the home side as Brentford swept into the iPro Stadium breathing and playing with an air of confidence as they pulled Derby left, then right and back again in a controlled opening 45 minutes.
Derby started in a dogged and determined manner in the early Sky Bet Championship kick-off with Tom Ince trying his luck twice in a two minute spell.
The wideman, first, sent a free kick narrowly wide of David Button’s far post, before the ‘keeper tipped his curling effort away from goal – preventing Steve McClaren’s side from capitalising on their early pressure.
The visitors soon composed themselves soon after and took the game to Derby.
Moses Odubajo, from the right angle, saw a shot parried by Lee Grant, whilst the commanding centre half, James Tarkowski, headed wide at the far post from a teasing Alex Pritchard cross.
The latter, Pritchard, grew into the game as time went on – starting on the left and pulling the Derby backline from side to side to create space, openings and ultimately, chances.
The 21-year-old Tottenham Hotspur loanee was hauled down on the edge of the area to gift the visitors their next chance, but Alan Judge, with Grant outstretched, sent his effort a whisker wide.
Derby failed to deal with the early warnings and after being dispossessed midway inside the Bees’ half, Mark Warburton’s side exploited the space to take the lead on 27 minutes.
One ball from back to front bypassed a wandering midfield and Pritchard was free and after stepping inside, he finished in devastating fashion with unstoppable drive into the far corner.
From then on, it was all a bit aimless from the hosts. Brentford had controlled, dominated the territorial and possession statistics without the necessity to test Grant further. It was all too easy.
The visitors’ control extended into the second half, but Warburton’s side began to add the clear-cut chances that threatened a crucial second goal.
Andre Gray, twice, missed golden opportunities inside the area, before Judge sent a volley wide from a simple corner routine.
Craig Forsyth came to the home side’s rescue as their backline failed to deal with a deep cross from Pritchard into the area.
The ball fell to the feet of Jota who, after getting goal side of Stephen Warnock, passed to the feet of Douglas, the Bees’ Captain, who saw his goal bound effort cleared off the line by the defender.
Gray wasted another clear opportunity after he headed over Stuart Dallas’ cross to the back post, despite their total control, their visitors’ missed opportunities always left a small gap opening, a glimmer of hope, of clawing themselves back into the game.
Scoring late goals has been Brentford’s speciality over the course of the season, but they were made to pay for their missed chances as the Rams drew level late on to claim an unlikely point.
With four minutes of added time shown, Derby moved the ball forward and Jeff Hendrick lined up an ambitious shot from range that he scuffed into the area.
As he has done his entire career, Bent was in the right place at the right time as he controlled before dispatching beyond Button to leave the Bees deflated, but for the Rams, it could prove to be a significant point in their season.
Derby County: Grant (GK), Keogh (C), Albentosa, Forsyth, Warnock (Whitbread, 78); Bryson (Lingard, 78), Hendrick; Russell (Dawkins, 45), Martin, Ince, Bent
Substitutes not used: Roos (GK), Ward, Hanson, Thomas
Brentford: Button, Bidwell, Dean, Douglas (C), Odubajo, Judge, Gray (Smith, 83), Diagouraga, Pritchard (Toral, 86), Jota (Dallas, 69), Tarkowski
Substitutes not used: Bonham, Craig, McCormack, O’Connell