Colchester defender Magnus Okuonghae gifted the Rams the lead with an unfortunate own-goal on 12 minutes, before hit-man Freddie Sears fired the home side back on level terms on the stroke of half-time.
The former West Ham striker looked to have completed the turnaround on 56 minutes, as bent a 20-yard effort past Frank Fielding, but fortunately for the Rams, substitute Robinson was on hand to coolly convert from 12-yards out and seal a draw.
Nigel Clough named a strong side line-up as Jake Buxton and Richard Keogh partnered one another at the heart of the Rams’ defence, whilst Jeff Hendrick and last season’s Player of the Year Craig Bryson started in the centre of midfield.
James O’Connor, who only linked up with the rest of the Rams’ squad late Wednesday evening after signing from Doncaster Rovers the very same day, made his first start for Derby, deputising for Gareth Roberts (hamstring), who was named amongst the substitutes.
Clough set out his side in a flexible 4-4-2/4-3-3 formation, with striker Nathan Tyson playing the central role upfront, and the 29-year-old sparked into life inside the opening 30 seconds of the game.
The former Reading forward picked the ball up 30-yards from goal and let-fly with a stinging left-footed effort; however his strike was deflected, as it skidded off the wet turf and wide for a corner.
The home side played some neat passing football, but all their possession was in vein on eight minutes, as the Rams took the lead in comical fashion.
Fielding sent a long ball up-field that was flicked on by Craig Bryson. The Scot chased the loose ball, but Okuonghe got ahead of the 24-year-old and passed it towards goalkeeper Mark Cousins. However, little did Okuonghe know, Cousins had charged out of his goal to close Bryson down, as the defender’s back-pass rolled into the back of the net.
Summer-recruit Paul Coutts was the Rams’ driving force in midfield, and the former Preston North End man played an inch-perfect chipped pass to fellow midfielder Hendrick on 20 minutes, however under pressure from Cousins, the Ireland under-21 international elected to pass instead of shoot, and the chance petered out.
However, it was not all one way traffic, as John Ward’s side continued to play their patient passing style, and shortly after the half-an-hour mark former Crystal Palace striker Clinton Morrison’s clever flick from eight-yards out was well held by Fielding in the Rams’ goal.
The Rams response was almost immediate, as Hendrick went close with a curling effort from the edge of the penalty area following Jamie Ward’s clever pull-back, but two minutes before the interval, the home side found a breakthrough against the run of play.
Midfielder Andrew Bond sent a through ball to former West Ham United striker Sears, who took one touch in the penalty area, before driving the ball low, across goal, into the bottom corner.
The second-half started as the first finished, as Colchester’s Sears doubled both his and the home side’s goal tally in the 56th minute.
Strike-partner Morrison laid the ball off to the 22-year-old who got the ball out of his feet, before curling a terrific 20-yard strike past Fielding.
The Rams upped the tempo as they searched for an equalising goal, and five minutes after conceding, Cousins was called into action twice in quick succession.
Firstly, Jake Buxton nodded Michael Jacobs’ cross straight at the ‘keeper from close-range, before Ward’s clever one-two with John Brayford ended in the former seeing his 20-yard drive expertly tipped over by the U’s shot-stopper.
In the final 15 minutes Buxton’s towering header once again brought the best out of Cousins, as he acrobatically palmed the ball away, but only as far as substitute Theo Robinson, who saw his close-range header cleared off the line.
However, the Rams continued to foray, and their pressure was eventually rewarded as Will Hughes released Robinson clean-through on goal. The former Milwall striker kept his cool and slid the ball past the onrushing Cousins, to secure a well deserved draw.
Derby County: Fielding (GK) (Legzdins 79); Brayford, Keogh, Buxton, O’Connor (Roberts 68); Coutts (B. Davies 79) , Hendrick (Doyle 79) , Bryson, Jacobs (Bennett 73); Ward (Hughes 73), Tyson (Robinson 73).
Subs Not Used: Deeney (GK), Bailey, Naylor.
Colchester United: Cousins (GK); Wilson, Okuonghae (Eastman 76), Heath, Rose; Bond, Izzet (Bean 68), Wordsworth (O’Toole 68); Sears, Morrison (Ladapo 79), Henderson.
Subs Not Used: Pentney (GK), Duguid, Coker, White, Gilbey.