Derby County secured a valuable three points at Pride Park Stadium as they beat Hull City 3-1.
The Rams were in inspired form throughout the evening as they raced into a three-goal lead in just 47 minutes.
Craig Forsyth got the Rams going on 20 minutes as he headed across the goalkeeper to put Derby ahead, whilst before the half time interval, Tom Lawrence doubled Derby’s advantage, coolly slotting home from close range.
Festy Ebosele excellently fired the Rams into a three-goal lead minutes after the restart to put Derby in complete control at Pride Park.
Hull did pull a goal back just after the hour mark as Forsyth guided a cross into his own goal, but after a few nervy moments, Derby managed to hold on to all three points to move within four points of safety in the Sky Bet Championship.
Manager Wayne Rooney made three changes to his side as Krystian Bielik was handed his first start since suffering a second serious knee injury in his career, whilst there were landmark appearances for Max Bird and Forsyth who were making their 100th and 250th appearances for the club respectively.
But the Rams were forced into some defending in the early exchanges of the game as goalkeeper Ryan Allsop had to be alert on two occasions.
It was Keane Lewis-Potter who found himself in space on the edge of the penalty area on four minutes. The Hull youngster hit his fierce effort early but Allsop managed to tip his shot wide of the post.
From the resulting corner, the goalkeeper was called into action again as Marcus Forrs shot from a tight angle but Allsop made a routine stop to deny the Hull man.
Forrs and Lewis-Potter combined soon as the latter headed over the top, but a minute later, Derby had a golden opportunity to take the lead.
Ebosele used his pace to positive effect as he skipped past a few players before being brought down on the edge of the box. Lawrence improvised from the resultant free kick as he flicked the ball up for himself but his effort struck the wall.
That didn’t matter, though, as Derby took the lead a minute later through Forsyth. The defender, who celebrated his 250th appearance for the Rams, was alive at the back post as he met Jason Knight’s deep cross and he headed across the goalkeeper to put Derby ahead.
It was Forsyth’s second goal of the campaign as the Rams would go on to dominate the rest of the half.
They were getting joy in the wide areas with Ebosele’s pace a constant thorn in Hull’s defence. Just after the half hour mark, the winger found Knight on the right who crossed low and hard into the centre and Luke Plange was denied from close range.
And it would be on the right where Derby would exploit to earn their second goal of the game. Ebosele was left one-v-one with Brandon Fleming and knocked the ball beyond the defender.
He fired the ball low into the centre for Lawrence who was composed as he took a touch and fired beyond Matt Ingram to double Derby’s lead.
And it was almost three before the break as Bird, who was celebrating his 100th appearance for the Rams, turned his man on the edge of the box but saw his strong effort saved by the Hull goalkeeper.
But, Derby did not have to wait long after the break to make it three as Ebosele grabbed his second goal of the season.
It was a lovely goal, too. Lawrence had space to run into and found Ebosele on the right-hand side. He could have gone to the byline, but he took a touch inside and hit the bouncing ball fiercely into the bottom corner to give the Rams breathing space.
Derby looked relatively comfortable as they advanced forward with purpose, with Ebosele and Forsyth getting into high areas of the pitch.
But, the Rams were dealt a blow just after the hour mark as Hull City pulled a goal back. A strong run and cross from Fleming on the right was converted home at the front post into his own goal by Forsyth as the Tigers gave themselves a shout of getting back into the game.
The momentum was with the visitors as Sean McLoughlin saw an effort deflected behind as Hull grabbed a foothold in the game.
It made for nervy times in the Derby defence, with Rooney turning to his bench, bringing Louie Sibley on in place of Ebosele who had ran himself into the ground.
Hull manager Shota Arveladze made a change of his own as he brought on Tom Eaves to add an extra aerial presence to Hull’s attack.
But, the Rams defended excellently with Lee Buchanan and Curtis Davies, along with Nathan Byrne and Forsyth, able to hold off their opponents and restrict them to few chances.
And, as six minutes additional time were signalled by the fourth official, Rooney used the opportunity to give a debut to Malcolm Ebiowei who has played in the club’s Under-18s squad this season.
He came on in the dying minutes as Derby saw the game out well to register a valuable three points on home turf to move the Rams to within four points of safety in the Sky Bet Championship.
Derby County: Allsop, Byrne, Forsyth, Bielik (Thompson 81’), Bird, Lawrence (C), Buchanan, Davies, Ebosele (Sibley 70’), Knight, Plange (Ebiowei 90’).
Substitutes: Roos, Bardell, Stretton, Cashin.
Hull City: Ingram, Coyle (Eaves 75’), Greaves, Jones, Docherty (Huddlestone 89’), Honeyman (C), Lewis-Potter, McLoughlin, Fleming, Forss, Walsh (Sayyadmanesh 65’).
Substitutes: Cartwright, Smallwood, Longman, Bernard.
Attendance: 22,595 (855 visiting supporters)