After Nottingham Forest were beaten at Luton earlier on Good Friday, runaway leaders Marco Silva headed to the iPro Stadium for an evening kick-off knowing victory would mark their immediate return to the top flight with five games to go.
And the prolific Fulham looked firmly on track to start their promotion feast, with Fabio Carvalho beating Derby keeper Ryan Allsop just before 20 minutes after a fine interaction with Bobby Decordova-Reid finishing off a typically incisive passing move .
The Portuguese winger is set to join Liverpool when his contract expires in the summer, with Israeli international Manor Solomon from Shakhtar Donetsk lined up to replace him in a £7million transfer.
However, Wayne Rooney’s Derby fought back after the interval, with Luke Plange, on loan from Crystal Palace, playing a starring role as he provided an early finish from close range before forcing Tosin Adarabioyo into a decisive goal against his camp 17 minutes from the end.
Fulham thought they had regained the lead when record top scorer Aleksandar Mitrovic came home at 1-1, only to have the Serbian striker quickly disallowed with the offside flag.
Further results could see the Cottagers promoted when they host Preston in their next game at Craven Cottage on Tuesday night.
Meanwhile, an unlikely win sees Derby move from bottom to 22nd and level the points with Peterborough, who beat Blackburn earlier in the day.
Both teams are nine points from safety with four games to go after Reading secured a last-minute victory over Sheffield United at Bramall Lane.