Derby County blitzed Millwall with three goals in six first-half minutes at Pride Park Stadium to take themselves to third in the Sky Bet Championship table.
David Nugent bagged a brace either side of Matej Vydra’s 14th goal of the season in all competitions to make it four wins in a row for Gary Rowett’s side without conceding a goal.
Just as against Aston Villa, Derby had a centre-back on the line to keep out the visitors when Curtis Davies cleared from Lee Gregory’s effort after some slick build-up with 15 minutes gone.
The Rams opened the scoring seven minutes later through a well-constructed set piece, as Nugent flicked Chris Baird’s low corner inside the far post.
From the moment, the floodgates were open and Vydra grabbed his 13th league goal of the season just two minutes later, firing home with his right foot from just outside the area with a strike not too dissimilar to his goal against Nottingham Forest earlier this season.
Then it was three on 29 minutes. Bradley Johnson did superbly to keep the ball in and hook a cross towards the near post, where Nugent was on hand to get his second of the game with a neat finish.
Scott Carson had to be at his best three minutes after half time to keep out Aiden O’Brien’s volley from inside the area, before Jordan Archer stretched to push Andreas Weimann’s long-range effort to safety.
The Rams nearly produced one of the goals of the season with just over an hour gone, as Nugent and Vydra exchanged passes before feeding Weimann, but after rounding Archer, the in-form Austrian couldn’t find the net before the offside flag was raised.
Nugent was denied his hat-trick shortly after, as Derby continued to dominate proceedings, with Rowett comfortable enough to rest his front two with just under 20 minutes left.
The away side had the odd chance, with Steve Morison going close to his first goal of the season, but Derby were comfortable and saw out the game for another vital win to leapfrog Bristol City into third.
Derby County: Carson; Baird, Keogh, Davies, Forsyth; Huddlestone, Ledley; Weimann (Thorne, 81’), Vydra (Russell, 71’), Johnson; Nugent (Winnall, 71’).
Substitutes not used: Mitchell, Wisdom, Lawrence, Martin.
Millwall: Archer; Romeo, Hutchinson, Cooper, Meredith; Wallace (Williams, 65’), Saville, Tunnicliffe, O’Brien (Onyedinma, 65’); Morison, Gregory (Elliott, 65’).
Substitutes not used: Martin, McLaughlin, Craig, Thompson.
There was just seven minutes between Davies’ clearance off the line and Nugent’s opener, and the importance of the centre-back’s intervention shouldn’t be overlooked.
Nugent’s goal was his first since he gave Derby the lead away at Norwich City in October, and it was the perfect way to start a flurry of first half goals.
As a striker, Nugent’s work rate is just as important as his goals, and after a series of battling performances in recent weeks, he was finally back on the scoresheet.
They were similar finishes at the near post, with the first flying past Archer’s left, before the second beat the Millwall ‘keeper at his right.
Derby are back in action on Boxing Day when they travel to the KCOM Stadium to face Hull City, before another away trip on 30th December against Ipswich Town.
The Rams then kick off 2018 with a home game against Sheffield United on New Year’s Day.