Derby once again illustrated their steely resolve by coming from behind to beat Fulham 2-1, delaying confirmation of the Cottagers’ automatic promotion and keeping their slim hopes of survival alive.
Following Luton’s victory over Nottingham Forest earlier on Good Friday, Marco Silva’s men would have secured a return to the Premier League after an away season with the win, something they looked set to do when Fabio Carvalho netted the first match after 20 minutes.
But Wayne Rooney’s men were the best after the break and, after teenage striker Luke Plange equalized (51), an own goal from Tosin Adarabioyo (73) sent the home fans wild and secured the three points for the Rams.
The defeat means Fulham have lost consecutive games for the first time this season, but they still lead second-placed Bournemouth, who have a game in hand, by nine points. Derby moves up to 22nd, nine points from safety with four games remaining.
How Derby put Fulham’s champagne back on ice
With favorite bidder Chris Kirchner present in a packed Pride Park, Derby started with an encouraging spring in their step and kept Fulham from getting into the rhythm that has made them so hard to stop at times this season.
It took the Cottagers 20 minutes to register their first shot on target but when they did they scored as a deft move was completed by Carvalho after his neat exchange of passes with Bobby Decordova-Reid.
The Portuguese – who has been heavily linked with a move to Liverpool – came within a second shortly before the break, although Rams keeper Ryan Allsop was level with his low shot on the second request.
But no sooner had the second half started than the Rams were back in the game. They showed the desire they have done all season and equalized when Plange swept away a cross from Lee Buchanan after a flowing counter that started with Allsop.
Allsop was called into action to dive and prevent a header from a particularly overpowered Aleksandar Mitrovic and was then beaten by the Serb, who slotted home after Carvalho’s shot hit the post, but the flag of the lineman denied Mitrovic a 39th league goal of the season. .
With 16 minutes to play, Derby took the lead for the first time. An unorthodox film by Nathan Byrne freed Tom Lawrence, whose ball crossing the penalty area – intended for Plange – was inadvertently pushed over the line by the unfortunate Adarabioyo.
Fulham insisted on trying to salvage something from the late game, but some late heroics from Allsop, who turned down three players in quick succession, ensured Fulham’s expectation continued.
Derby are back in action at 3pm on Easter Monday, when they travel to the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium to take on QPR, in a match live on Sky Sports Football Red Button. Fulham, meanwhile, return at 7.45pm the following evening, when they host Preston at Craven Cottage.