An early first half goal saw Derby County fall to a 1-0 defeat in their first ever competitive meeting with Burton Albion.
Jackson Irvine, Burton’s record transfer signing earlier this summer, settled the contest with a stooping header after 12 minutes as the Brewers capitalised on a strong start to the meeting at the Pirelli Stadium.
Nigel Pearson made three attacking changes – one of which was James Wilson for his Rams debut – in a bid to change the tide in the second half, but their efforts were in vain with the hosts largely comfortable.
Contrasting emotions at the full time whistle showed the meaning of the result as jubilation swept amongst the home staff, players and crowd, whilst Derby are left heading into an international break with a disappointing defeat lingering over their heads.
Clearly pumped up for arguably one of the biggest occasions in their history, Burton Albion, hardly a surprise to anyone, started brightly, on the front, and full of intent.
Their four Sky Bet Championship fixtures prior to the visit of Derby had served up goals – 10 for Burton alone. A stat that proved Nigel Clough’s side would pose a threat, even to a Derby defence that is one of the meanest in the Football League.
From the off Lloyd Dyer, a flying winger, was a menace, shooting straight at Carson. Will Miller, a loan signing from Tottenham Hotspur ahead of this fixture, met the same fate with a shot soon after.
On the other wing, Lucas Akins was also causing a threat with his pace and he cracked a high effort over the crossbar as Burton tightened their grip on the contest and they did not have to wait much longer before they broke the deadlock.
Akins, the 27-year-old, was involved once again, turning provider on this occasion as he knocked a teasing cross into the six-yard box, where Irvine, stooping, connected first with a low header to beat Carson.
The Rams struggled to find any rhythm and although they controlled larger spells of possession, Burton looked a bigger danger on the counter attack.
Dyer and Akins were key to this – the former firing over, whilst the pacey Chris O’Grady forced Carson into a routine save on the half hour mark.
Shortly before that, Derby conjured up their first shot on target as Jacob Butterfield tried his luck but Jon McLaughlin, manning the hosts’ goal, claimed easily.
Chris Martin also saw a shot blocked in the dying embers of the first 45 minutes, but that aside, the half belonged to Burton.
Pearson, the Derby manager, responded by throwing Abdoul Camara into the fray, in place of Tom Ince, with the Guinea international making an immediate impact on the contest.
He saw a deflected strike saved awkwardly by McLaughlin at his near post and after cutting inside from the right, he bent another effort into the arms of the Brewers’ ‘keeper.
Pearson signalled further intent before the hour mark – introducing Darren Bent and James Wilson, the Manchester United loanee, with the latter making his debut – but still the Rams were left frustrated.
Determined to see their one goal home, Burton sat back and soaked up the Derby pressure, throwing their bodies on the line to deny the Rams a clear sight of goal.
That was seen in full throttle when Johnny Russell, after cutting inside from the right, saw a drive blocked on the edge of the area, whilst Will Hughes could only fire over from range as time ticked down in Staffordshire.
Deep into added time and with everyone thrown forward in a bid to salvage a draw, former Ram Shaun Barker was introduced for his first senior appearance in football since he suffered his horrendous injury in March 2012 to complete a remarkable journey.
He cleared Derby’s final throw of the dice as the Rams headed into the international break on the back of a loss.
Burton Albion: McLaughlin, Brayford, McFadzean, Turner, O’Grady, Akins, Dyer, Naylor (Williamson, 87), Palmer (Barker, 90), Miller (Harness, 54), Irvine
Substitutes not used: Bywater, Beavon, McCrory, Choudhury
Derby County: Carson, Christie, Keogh (C), Shackell, Olsson; Bryson, Hughes, Ince (Camara, 46), Butterfield (Bent, 56), Russell; Martin (Wilson, 56)
Substitutes not used: Grant, Baird, Pearce, Blackman