Gareth Davis reports from Pride Park Stadium
Rob Hulse struck his 15th goal of the season to earn Derby a dramatic 2-1 win at home to promotion-chasing Bristol City.
The Rams had held the upper-hand in terms of the scoreline after Chris Porter's opener with just 52 seconds on the clock.
But the visitors had chance after chance to find an equaliser, only to be denied by the in-form Stephen Bywater - and the woodwork - during a first-half they doiminated.
Derby stepped up after the break with Hulse and Nacer Barazite testing Adriano Basso, who also had to be sharp to prevent a loose back-pass from Bradley Orr creeping in.
Bywater could do nothing when Gavin Williams smashed a 25-yarder into the back of the net with eight minutes left but Nigel Clough's men roared straight back upfield for Hulse to win it.
The Rams went in to their second home game in four days with something of a midfield injury crisis - though they were boosted by the return of Nacer Barazite following a dislocated shoulder.
Barazite was able to take up his place on the right but Derby's options had been limited on Friday with news that Paul Green was ruled out for the rest of the season with a broken foot.
And preparations were further hampered when Steve Davies was sidelined with a toe injury, meaning a recall to the starting line-up for Mile Sterjovski - in the centre of the park alongside Robbie Savage.
Przemyslaw Kazmierczak was back on the bench for his first involvement in a senior squad for the first time since December 28.
Another bumper Pride Park Stadium crowd was already loud by kick-off and within a minute the home fans were really buoyant.
Sterjovski picked up on a loose ball inside the Bristol City half and drove forward well before finding himself inside the box.
His shooting opportunity had gone but the returning Australian showed great awareness to slide the ball across goal for Chris Porter, who had the simplest of tasks to tap in from close-range for his third goal in a game and a bit.
The official timing was a mere 52 seconds - the perfect start for Nigel Clough's side.
But the visitors, with their 3-5-2 formation, soon gave Derby something to think about as Jamie McAllister found space to cross from the left and up rose Stern John some ten yards out, only to completely mess up his header and send the ball back towards where it had come from.
And on seven they might well have been level when Nicky Maynard stole in behind the Derby defence and forced a fine block from Stephen Bywater.
The nippy number ten was denied again by Bywater after a fine move involving Bradley Orr and John as Gary Johnson's side responded well to their early blow.
And when Maynard was pole-axed by Martin Albrechtsen on the edge of the box with the clock reading ten, City puled on more pressure.
Lee Johnson's strike appeared to come back off the arm of Lewin Nyatanga, though referee Keith Stroude waved the appeals away, then in the resulting scramble Bywater produced another fine stop.
Derby failed to clear their lines properly and when the ball came back in, Jamie McCombe rose well and nodded his header against the post.
The visitors' fast-flowing football had seen them quickly take control of the game after going behind, and it was Maynard again threatening on the quarter-hour as he stole in on a low cross but skewed his shot wide.
And on 20 another chance came the way of McCombe, whose leap to reach Michael McIndoe's free-kick was highest but the centre-half saw his header loop safely over the bar.
Derby were reduced to trying to counter-attack on the break and did manage to force a couple of free-kicks, both taken by Robbie Savage but both coming to nothing.
The first, from a left-wing position, was headed out to Sterjovski who was then chopped down in a great shooting spot, but Savage's effort struck the wall.
Then it was the visitors back on the attack through Maynard on the right, and his pull-back ultimately saw Bywater save well from Gavin Williams.
John's low effort was also grabbed by Bywater, who was by far the busier of the two goalkeepers with the visitors continuing their domination.
City kept on probing the longer the first half went on, though their momentum was slowed by a hold-up for John to receive treatment.
At the same time, Derby goalscorer Porter - who was dropping increasingly deeper and forming part of a five-man midfield - was tended to for the second time in the opening 45, and appeared to be moving gingerly.
Indeed, Porter was unable to return for the second half - a hip injury the diagnosis - so on came Andy Todd, a move signalling the Rams' intentions to match their visitors man-for-man across midfield.
Derby had the second period's first real break through Barazite, who charged down the right only for Adriano Basso to cut out his low cross, but the visitors, attacking the goal in front of their own fans, soon began to put the Rams under pressure again.
Former Pride Park loanee McIndoe was pulling most of Bristol's strings and looked most likely to creat something for them.
And it was from one of the Scottish international's corners on 56 minutes that John - another former loanee, and a man who enjoys scoring against Derby - rose highest, only to plant his header over the bar.
On the hour the visitors might well have been made to pay for blowing so many opportunities as Hulse was sent clear by Sterjovski's clever pass, but Basso was equal to his effort with a fine save.
Basso again stood firm on 63 to deny Barazite with city reorganising after the withdrawal of centre-half McCombe for front-runner Ivan Sproule.
City had held on well with Derby having their spell of pressure and it was soon their turn to attack again and they might have done better with 20 to go.
A long ball was knocked back to Williams on the edge of the box, but the midfielder rather bottled his shot and didn't really give it everything, leaving Bywater with a fairly simple save to make.
But on 76 the Rams were an inch away from having the game made safe for them.
A long pass down the left looked to be causing no problems as Bradley Orr turned it back to Basso from a wide area, but the Brazilian had raced away from his goal needlessley.
It looked for all the world as though the ball was rolling in but Basso sprinted back and stretched out a foot in desperation to scrape it off the line and away to safety.
With 11 on the clock Derby were forced to make another change as Jay McEveley couldn't continue and left the field with his hamstring seemingly the cause of trouble.
It meant another re-shuffle as Kazmierczak came on and into midfield, Todd dropped back to centre-half alongside Lewin Nyatanga with Albrechtsen moving across to left-back.
And eventually the pressure told as City were level eight minutes from time.
Another long ball was headed out but only as far as Williams, who took a touch before unleashing a 25-yard volley that rippled the back of the net and left Bywater with no chance.
However, no sooner were the visiting faithful up and singing were they silenced.
Barazite's free-kick was only half-cleared out to Teale on the left and he skipped past his man before drilling in a low cross that Hulse hammered past Basso for his 15th goal of the season.
Sterjovski was then withdrawn to a fine reception and replaced by Tito Villa, a move that saw the tireless Hulse drop back to help out his midfield for the final few minutes.
It was Villa's assist to send Teale through in the first minute of stoppage-time to possibly wrap the game up but Louis Carey stuck with the winger and forced him wide before watching his shot safely past the post.
Derby dug deep right to the death to make sure they held on to their advantage and it was easy to lose count of the amount of headers and tackles just when it looked as if the pressure was piling up.
Derby County: Bywater, Connolly (C), McEveley (Kazmierczak 79), Savage, Hulse, Sterjovski (Villa 86), Nyatanga, Teale, Barazite, Albrechtsen, Porter (Todd HT).
Substitutes: Carroll (GK), Ellington.
Booked: Todd (54, foul).
Bristol City: Basso, Orr, McAllister, Fontaiine, McCombe (Sproule 61), Carey (C), Maynard (Styvar 73), McIndoe, Williams, John, Johnson.
Substitutes: Weale (GK), Wilson, Akinde.
Attendance: 30,824 (2,430 visiting fans).