Cardiff climbed into the Sky Bet Championship top six with a 4-0 win over Derby as Wayne Rooney suffered the heaviest loss of his managerial career.
Leandro Bacuna’s brace, a mark header from Kieffer Moore and a late Will Vaulks belter saw Cardiff end the Rams’ recent revival by scoring 24 points from Mick McCarthy’s 10 games in charge.
But the victory came at a cost as defender Joe Bennett suffered what appears to be a serious injury after 33 minutes.
Bennett walked towards the ball but unchallenged as he slumped onto the grass, left-back lying motionless for six minutes before medics took him on a stretcher.
Derby had headed to the Welsh capital in good shape with six wins in nine games easing their relegation worries, but it was a sobering exercise for Rooney whose side were second best across the board.
Cardiff made their intention known when Derby struggled to cope with Vaulks’ long throw and Moore flew over the crossbar from six yards.
Graeme Shinnie quickly tested Dillon Phillips with a low 25-yard shot that the Cardiff keeper pushed around a post, but it was a rare Rams raid on the home goal.
Sheyi Ojo claimed a penalty as Matt Clarke seemed to manage while prostrate on the floor, and Moore directed Perry Ng’s cross a few inches wide as play was cleared to continue.
But Cardiff’s wait for a goal ended after 22 minutes as Bennett slipped to Bacuna in the left channel and the midfielder took advantage of a static defense to score his first goal since November 2019.
Moore forced Kelle Roos’ finger to a stop before Bennett fell to the grass and was eventually swept away, with worried faces all around.
Cardiff had more chances ahead of the interval as Roos held on to an effort from Ojo before denying Moore and Bacuna with a double save deep in time added for Bennett’s injury.
But Derby’s defense was breached within three minutes of the restart as Moore met Vaulks’ corner to come home with his 16th goal of the season and the eighth in 10 games since McCarthy’s arrival.
Ojo set up Bacuna’s second eight minutes later with a square pass over the edge of the penalty area as the Curacao international looped home with his left foot into the corner of the net.
Cardiff was denied when Ojo’s celebrations were interrupted by an offside flag.
But Vaulks notched a stunning fourth in the dying seconds, his 30-yard effort passing Roos to confirm Cardiff’s seventh win in eight games and further bolster their growing playoff aspirations.