Derby looked destined to claim all three points against their bitter rivals across Brian Clough Way, after Matěj Vydra and David Nugent struck early in the second half to cancel out Zach Clough’s early goal.
However, deep into added time, Daniel Pinillos powered home a header from a corner to earn the hosts a share of the spoils at the City Ground.
Rowett, understandably, was disappointed to see two points slip through Derby’s grasp – but he saw a number of positive signs to take away from the performance in Nottinghamshire.
He did, however, admit that his side had the chances to put the game to bed following their electric start to the second period.
He told RamsTV
: “I think it’s fair to say there were a huge array of emotions for me this afternoon.
“It was a good first game if you like and in the 92nd and 93rd minute you start to think about what a great feeling it would be to get the points.
“You always have to look, after a game, at the things that you did well and I thought we were really good in the last 60 minutes.
“We played some good stuff, moved the ball and were more incisive; we had enough opportunities to go on and win the game comfortably.
“We frustrated them at points so to lose the points late on is really disappointing. We could have run it in the corner and been professional, if that’s what it takes.
“There were lots of positives, we’re really disappointed in the end that we didn’t see it out and there’s lots to work on.”
He added: “I have said to the players that I want the opposition to feel that any points taken off Derby County, they should feel that have won a major trophy at the end and celebrate like Forest did.
“I don’t blame Forest for that, it was a great last minute equaliser for them, but we have to start imposing that feeling on teams.”
Rowett opted to make a tactical change at the interval with Derby 1-0 down.
He switched Vydra to the number ten role behind Nugent, allowing Johnny Russell to move out to the left-hand side.
The move paid dividends as Russell crossed for Vydra to level just after the break, before Nugent nodded home Bradley Johnson’s cross soon afterwards to turn the game on its head.
That, for Rowett, allowed Derby to take more control of proceedings – and a third goal could, and probably should, have followed with Tom Ince hitting the bar and Alex Pearce having a header saved.
Discussing the change, Rowett explained: “We felt at times in the first half that we didn’t have as much width as we would have liked down the left.
“We perhaps needed a more striking mentality in the number ten position.
“We knew that Johnny would go out wide and work really hard for the team, while he also has amazing quality.
“It was there for all to see as he got away and crossed for Vyds, who got in there where it hurt to equalise.
“It gave us a natural life, they looked like they were panicking a bit, and a great ball in from Bradley saw Nuge head it in.
“He got himself into a great position, in between the centre-half and the full-back like we asked him, and his finish was great.
“We controlled the game after that and had a few more chances, Tom Ince hit the bar and Alex Pearce had a header saved.”
Rowett’s return to the dugout came almost three months to the day since his shock exit from Birmingham City.
The Derby boss admitted it was a nice feeling to be back in the cut and thrust of management, despite his side conceding a late goal.
After three training sessions with the Rams’ squad this week, he was pleased to get down to the serious work of playing for points.
He said: “It was great to be back and I don’t want to sound too lazy, but I’ve been at home watching Soccer Saturday at weekends recently and see the results fly in.
“I had usually been sat on the couch with a coffee in my hand, but the boot is on the other foot now and I’m part of all the drama.
“I have been desperate to get back in and this is a fantastic opportunity.”