Derby County made it 10 away league games without defeat with a dominant 3-0 victory at Birmingham City in the Sky Bet Championship.
Johnny Russell set the ball rolling with a deflected strike in the first half, before Matej Vydra and Andreas Weimann sealed a hugely impressive three points after the break.
It’s now six clean sheets in the last eight league games for the Rams, who jumped back into the automatic promotion places after Cardiff City’s 4-0 win against Sunderland earlier in the day.
As expected for a home side taking on their former manager, Birmingham started with a high-tempo and they were inches from taking the lead after just five minutes when Jonathan Grounds struck the post.
Steve Cotterill’s team continued to press without causing any real problems, but Derby looked incisive when they went forward, especially through the pacey outlet of Russell who put the Rams in front with 19 minutes gone.
The Scot jinked one way and then the other before striking towards goal, and a deflection took the ball past David Stockdale at his near post.
Birmingham’s best effort in the first half came from range when Craig Gardner forced a strong stop from Scott Carson, before Vydra clipped the bar with an audacious effort from a tight angle.
Derby looked like a side on a mission after the break and they got the crucial second goal just 11 minutes after the restart as Vydra joined Leon Clarke at the top of the Championship goalscoring chart.
Tom Lawrence lobbed an inch-perfect ball in behind the Blues backline and Vydra fired high beyond Stockdale for his 15th league goal of the season.
Russell was superb all afternoon and he nearly sealed a brace after cutting inside, but Stockdale got down well to keep him out.
The Rams continued to push and despite Grounds hitting the post for a second time, substitute Weimann sealed the points with a minute left, tapping home after David Nugent unselfishly squared.
After the late success on this ground last season, it was a far more straightforward return for Gary Rowett this time around as Derby left with the points and the bonus of a terrific performance.
Birmingham City: Stockdale; Colin, Roberts, Dean, Grounds; Kieftenbeld, Gardner; Maghoma, Davis (Adams, 66’), Boga (Jota, 83’); Gallagher.
Substitutes not used: Trueman, Morrison, Dacres-Cogley, Ndoye, Jutkiewicz.
Derby County: Carson; Wisdom, Keogh, Davies, Forsyth; Huddlestone, Thorne; Russell, Vydra (Martin, 87’), Lawrence (Weimann, 77’); Winnall (Nugent, 68’).
Substitutes not used: Mitchell, Baird, Pearce, Hanson.
Derby looked in total control after the break but it was crucial to find that second goal and the away end erupted when Vydra fired into the roof of the net.
Lawrence’s long pass completely caught out the static Birmingham defence and the Czech was more than happy to oblige when faced with a one-on-one situation with Stockdale.
Even before his superb finish, Vydra caught the eye with his exceptional work rate out of possession and he helped to win the ball back on several occasions high up the pitch.
When his chance on goal came, he made no mistake in delivering a sensational finish – even on his weaker left foot.
The Rams return to Pride Park Stadium next Friday (19th January) to face top-six rivals Bristol City in front of the Sky Sports cameras, before a rearranged trip to The Den to face Millwall on Tuesday 30th January.