Derby County recorded back-to-back wins for the first time this season as they edged out 3-2 winners after an enthralling meeting with Wolves at Molineux.
Steve McClaren’s men hit the gas early on and established a two-goal cushion in the West Midlands as Tom Ince and Darren Bent struck in the opening 15 minutes of the contest.
The Rams should have gone into the half time interval out of sight, but could not add to their two goals despite a hatful of chances, leaving the door ajar for the hosts in the second 45 minutes.
Much better, Wolves did hit back as Hélder Costa and David Edwards struck and had two penalty claims waved away late on, but Ince’s own spot kick conversion in between those finishes proved to be crucial as Derby entered the third international break of the campaign on a winning note.
It was a nail biting finale at Molineux, but that should never have been the case, especially after such a dominant first half display in which Derby looked like they could have scored each time they attacked.
Early doors, Bent could have opened the scoring earlier than Derby actually did, but the 32-year-old got under a precise deep ball in from Johnny Russell and sent the ball high over Andy Lonergan’s crossbar.
The Rams were not to be deterred for long and did still go on to make the perfect start in front of the Sky Sports cameras – opening the scoring after just six minutes through Ince.
Max Lowe, making his return to the starting XI for the first time since Derby’s win over Leeds United, crafted the chance. The 19-year-old whipped in a dangerous cross from the left on to the head of Will Hughes, whose initial header was instinctively saved by Lonergan. His parried stop fell to the feet of Ince, though, who finished high into the roof of the net.
Wolves sought an immediate response. The impressive Ivan Cavaleiro bent an effort narrowly over after Derby, in desperate fashion, struggled to clear their lines, before the same man attempted to turn provider, crossing for Costa, who rashly volleyed over.
It got worse for the hosts soon after, though, as McClaren’s side doubled their lead in sublime fashion.
Remember that early volley Bent sent over? He made no mistake with the second as he first worked hard to win the ball back inside the Wolves half, before finding the feet of Hughes. From there, the Derby midfielder skipped past a couple of challengers, switched the ball on to his left foot and showed great vision to scoop a terrific pass into the path of Bent, who volleyed first time beyond Lonergan.
Aside from a Joao Teixeira effort, Derby were in complete control of this meeting with only a string of fine saves and near misses preventing McClaren’s men from adding to their tally.
Russell saw a shot blocked from inside the area and Bent went within a whisker of another goal after meeting an Ince corner at the near post, sending it agonisingly wide of the far.
Then a combination of Lonergan and the post came to the hosts’ rescue as the ‘keeper got a glove to a Jacob Butterfield effort inside the area, whilst he also got a firm effort to a corner, which had been turned goalwards by one his own defenders.
Rob Edwards, Wolves’ Interim Head Coach, signalled his discontent and made a change shortly after the hour, but the Rams maintained their grip on the contest as they ended first half proceedings strongly.
The Rams held the impressive statistic of winning 12 of their last 13 games in which they had been leading at the interval, but a reinvigorated Wolves side threatened that record with a far better display in the second half.
Like Derby, they could have scored earlier than they did. Cavaleiro appeared to have halved the deficit on 56 minutes after the hosts, patiently, carved out enough space for a shot on goal, but the former Monaco man saw his effort cleared off the line by Richard Keogh.
Five minutes later and it was 2-1. It came about after the Rams failed to clear their lines, leading to Jon Dadi Bodvarsson beating Carson to a loose ball and laying the ball into the path of Costa to find the back of the net.
Hughes was then called upon to deny Wolves an equaliser as he cleared George Saville’s looping header from a corner off the line – a vital clearance as the visitors settled the contest back down and began to take a grip of the game once more.
It also led to Derby scoring the crucial third goal that sealed the victory as Ince, on his father’s old stomping ground, was hauled down in the right corner of the area, leaving Paul Tierney, the referee, no choice but to award a spot kick.
Ince stepped up himself to take the penalty and he made no mistake as he expertly dispatched his effort, sending Lonergan the wrong way.
It was a goal that proved crucial as Wolves fought back once more to make the scoreline 3-2 as Edwards connected with Cavaleiro’s corner and beat Carson at his near post to set up a grand stand finish in the West Midlands.
That came after Cavaleiro was denied a spot kick himself, whilst Wolves saw another penalty claim waved away by Tierney as tensions rose once more.
The game continued to sway one way and then the other too as a combination of Lonergan and the woodwork denied the Rams a fourth as Matěj Vydra cracked the post with an effort, whilst the Wolves ‘keeper denied Bradley Johnson from close range too.
Edwards’ men threw everything at Derby as the contest entered five minutes of added time, but the Rams held on to claim another priceless three points and, importantly, earn back-to-back wins for the first time this season.
Wolves: Lonergan, Doherty, Iorfa, Batth (C), Borthwick-Jackson; Coady (Wallace, 89), Teixeira (Saville, 32), Edwards; Costa, Cavaleiro, Bodvarsson (Dicko, 68)
Substitutes not used: Flatt, Silvio, Stearman, Saiss
Derby County: Carson, Christie (Hanson, 47), Keogh (C), Pearce, Lowe; Johnson, Butterfield, Hughes (Bryson, 90); Ince, Russell, Bent (Vydra, 85)
Substitutes not used: Mitchell, Shackell, Anya, Weimann
Attendance: 19,858 (1,309 away supporters)