Derby County battled hard to claim a draw with Brighton & Hove Albion in an opening day clash fought out between two of the Sky Bet Championship's promotion favourites.

After a strong start, in which only a fine save from David Stockdale denied Nigel Pearson’s side an early goal, both outfits cancelled each other out over the course of the 90 minutes.

Brighton, particularly, looked strong in the second half with two goalline clearances from Cyrus Christie and Jason Shackell preventing the visitors from securing all three points in Derbyshire.

Before that, however, the Rams appeared to be at it from the first whistle as they dominated the early stages, seemingly in no mood to simply feel their way into the first competitive fixture of the new season.

Displaying vibrancy and purpose going forward, they quickly delivered some early warning signs to the Brighton backline.

As early as the second minute, Darren Bent, at full stretch, poked a teasing Cyrus Christie over the crossbar, before a superb instinctive save from David Stockdale denied Tom Ince, who had been picked out by Nick Blackman inside the six-yard area.

On 12 minutes, Ince brought the same response from Stockdale after smartly dragging the ball away from two defenders and cracking an effort from range towards goal.

That proved to be the closest Pearson’s side came to breaking the deadlock.

The hosts did not have it all their own way and could have easily found themselves behind after Brighton caught them on the break, resulting in Scott Carson being forced into his first save to deny AFC Bournemouth loanee Glenn Murray.

It acted as a signal of the contest levelling out as Chris Hughton’s side forced their way back after a shaky start, but Pearson’s men continued to have their chances.

Bradley Johnson, operating on the left, screwed a first time effort well wide from inside the area from Jeff Hendrick’s cut back, before Craig Bryson saw a deflected strike of Steve Sidwell safely collected by Stockdale with the contest closing in on the half hour mark.

Brighton shaded proceedings in a stronger 10-minute spell leading into the half time interval, with Anthony Knockaert particularly looking a threat down the right side.

Desperate defending on a couple of occasions denied the visitors clear sights of Carson’s goal, whilst Chris Baird, timely, intervened twice to hack dangerous crosses away.

The half petered out from, but as quick as the Rams began the first half, Brighton were just as sharp out of the traps in the second.

Within 10 seconds, Carson pulled off a superb save to deny Tomer Hemed, Brighton’s top scorer last term, who sweetly caught a knocked down diagonal on the edge of the area.

Later, Sidwell cracked a low effort from range wide and Murray glanced a Gaetan Bong cross over as the Seagulls continued to look the more dangerous of the two outfits.

Derby were hanging on to level terms by a thread as first Christie, off the line, and then Jason Shackell to deny Murray, produced goal saving clearances.

Knockaert was next to try his luck, bending a first time left footed effort agonisingly wide of Carson’s far post, whilst at the other end, Jacob Butterfield, the substitute, drove a wayward attempt well over the top of Stockdale’s untested goal.

Despite spending the large part of the second half showing their resilience, Derby could have claimed all three points as Will Hughes, after jinking his way past Bruno, saw a deflected attempt clawed away by the Brighton ‘keeper as both sides settled for a goalless opening day draw.

Derby County: Carson, Christie, Keogh (C), Shackell, Baird; Blackman (Martin, 68), Bryson, Hendrick, Johnson (Hughes, 60); Ince (Butterfield, 83), Bent

Substitutes not used: Grant, Russell, Pearce, Lowe

Brighton & Hove Albion: Stockdale, Bruno (C), Bong, Dunk, Kayal, Skalak (Murphy, 87), Hemed (Baldock, 72), Knockaert (LuaLua, 90), Sidwell, Murray, Rosenior

Substitutes not used: Maenpaa, Norwood, Ince, White

Attendance: 28,749 (1,354 Brighton supporters)