Birthday boy Chris Porter came off the bench to hand Derby County a thoroughly deserved first win on the road of the season at Watford this afternoon.
With Derby down to the bare bones in defence Nigel Clough's warriors produced a strong defensive display to keep out one of the Championship's in-form teams.
And at the other end Porter struck with 13 minutes left to secure the 3 points Derby richly deserved.
Derby were without central defensive trio Dean Leacock, Shaun Barker and Miles Addison owing to injury while Jake Buxton was fit enough only for the bench.
That meant there were no recognised central defenders in Derby's line-up, with Jay McEveley and Paul Connolly lining up in the heart of the defence with Fredrik Stoor coming in at right-back for Leacock in the only change to the starting line-up from the XI at Preston on Tuesday evening.
On the bench there were welcome returns for Buxton and Steven Davies after injury.
In their 3rd choice blue and white striped strip Derby got the game underway and after 8 minutes had a good chance to break the deadlock but Jay DeMerit superbly blocked Lee Hendrie's goalbound effort from around 12 yards out.
It was a steady start from Derby against an in-form Watford side who posed very little going forwards in the early stages and Connolly headed a free-kick way over from Savage's delivery as Derby's good start continued.
Watford's only real effort in the first half hour was a pot-shot from Danny Graham which was way wide as he attempted to catch Bywater off his line after a scuffed clearance into the one-time Derby player's path.
The first half was one of few chances but Derby were exerting the pressure and DJ Campbell brought a fine save out of Loach by letting fly with a thunderous effort from 20 yards that the England U21 international tipped the ball around the post.
Bywater was called into duty in the final moments of the half to ensure the game was goalless at the break by diving full length to his right to turn away Helguson's from 18 yards, although strangely Referee Mr Stroud awarded a goal kick to Derby. It was just one of a handful of strange decisions from the officials during the half.
Campbell sliced a shot wide early in the second period as Derby came out the traps bright and bubbly once again and down the left Moxey advanced towards to deliver a ball right across the 6-yard box that evaded everyone.
The quick-footed Campbell almost had a opportunity on the hour but a last-ditch tackle by DeMerit denied him the opportunity to get a shot in.
Birthday boy Porter entered the fray in place of Campbell on 63 minutes up top and a brand new strike partnership was formed with the introduction of Davies for Dickov 5 minutes later.
After being virtually a spectator for the best part of the game Bywater showed his reactions will still sharp as he pulled off a fine save with 20 minutes to go from Cleverley's shot from the edge of the box as Watford enjoyed a spell of pressure.
With just over 10 minutes to go, Derby broke the leadlock to take the lead away from Pride Park for the first time this season.
A foul on Porter out wide allowed the Rams an opportunity to deliver a ball into the box, and the birthday boy was bang on cue to meet the ball with a firm header at point blank range which crashed into the back of the net from Hendrie's centre.
Talk about a script being written, it was almost fate that Porter would strike only 2 games into his comeback from such a long spell out on the sidelines with a hip problem.
Gary Teale came on almost immediately for Hendrie and Watford make three changes of their own.
Eustace wasted a golden chance for Watford with 10 minutes to go as he volleyed over from inside the box.
From there, Watford did mount some pressure but Derby's backline were in no mood to give anything away and they kept themselves watertight.
Watford were in fact restricted to just a few half chances, and despite 4 minutes of added time Derby had done more than enough to take the points.
Make no mistake, Derby deserved this. The unbeaten run is now up to 4 games and two clean sheets on the road this week is a magnificent effort.
The Rams have the chance to make it 5 unbeaten against Doncaster Rovers at Pride Park next Saturday.
Watford: Loach, Mariappa, DeMerit, Cowie (Henderson 90), Graham (Ellington 78), Helguson, Doyley, Harley (Severin 78), Cleverley, Eustace, Hodson
Subs: Lee, Hoskins, Sadler, Bryan
Booked: Harley, Cleverley, Helguson
Derby County: Bywater, Stoor, Connolly, McEveley, Moxey, Green, Savage, Pearson, Hendrie (Teale 78), Campbell (Porter 63), Dickov (Davies 68)
Subs: Deeney, Livermore, Croft, Buxton
Goals: Porter (77)
Referee: Mr K Stroud
Attendance: 14,063 (894 Derby County fans)