Nottingham Forest claimed a valuable point as the A52 ‘derby’ at Pride Park finished all-square.The Reds led at the break thanks to a well-worked Chris Cohen goal but Derby hit back through Jamie Ward to earn a share of the spoils.
Forest had chances to bag a winner - and avenge their City Ground defeat earlier in the season - but were unable to find a way past ‘keeper Adam Legzdins for a second time.
Boss Alex McLeish made one change to the side that had beaten Peterborough a week earlier with Danny Collins returning from suspension at the expense of Dan Harding.
Collins dropped into his accustomed central defensive role with Greg Halford taking over from Harding at left back.
Derby made a bright start and a prolonged spell of pressure resulted in them winning a free-kick in a central position on the edge of The Reds’ penalty area. Jamie Ward’s effort took a wicked deflection but it flew wide of Karl Darlow’s target.
The woodwork denied Forest the opening goal after 14 minutes as Simon Cox hammered a shot against the underside of the bar after Darlow’s long clearance had been helped on by Billy Sharp.
Gonzalo Jara Reyes squandered a golden opportunity moments later as he fired over from an unmarked position just inside the area after good approach play by Henri Lansbury and Cox.
Darlow made a sprawling save at the feet of Connor Sammon from a Gareth Roberts cross as the home side looked to strike the first blow.
But it was Forest who edged in front 14 minutes before the break, courtesy of Cohen.
Radi Majewski was the architect of the goal with great work down the right hand side. The Polish international found Cox who teed-up Cohen to first past Legzdins, albeit at the second attempt.
Rams boss Nigel Clough looked for a reaction from his side and he almost got in when John Brayford cut in from the right but the full back scuffed his shot wide of the target.
Cox had an opportunity to double Forest’s lead just before half-time but fired straight at Legzdins after Simon Gillett and Lansbury had combined to create the opening.
Legzdins had to be alert at the start of the second half as he scampered off his line to cut off Sharp’s route to goal after Cohen had picked out the striker with a superb through ball.
But it was Derby who bagged the second goal of the game in the 52nd minute. They capitalised on mistake by Gillett, who conceded possession too easily in midfield, and after Sammon had skipped past Elliott Ward, Jamie Ward fired past Darlow to the delight of the home crowd.
McLeish responded by introducing Dexter Blackstock to the action at the expense of Majewski just after the hour mark.
Lansbury showed great vision to pick out Cox’s run in the inside right channel and Sharp was just inches away from getting on the end of his tantalising cross.
Clough made his first change of the game in the 67th minute as goal-scorer Ward was replaced by the pacey Theo Robinson and two minutes later McLeish introduced Guy Moussi for Gillett.
Blackstock wasted a golden opportunity to restore Forest’s lead as he headed over a Lansbury corner from an unmarked position 12 yards out.
And Rams skipper Richard Keogh was forced to head behind his own goal after Cohen had capped a quick counter-attack with a teasing cross from the left.
Sharp was just inches away from sending the 4,000 travelling supporters into ecstasy with a shot on the turn from the edge of the area with just five minutes remaining.
Sharp fired in off a post with the last kick of the game but the whistle had already gone for an infringement against the former Doncaster man.
Forest: Darlow, Jara Reyes, Collins (c), Ward, Halford, Gillett (Moussi 68'), Cohen, Majewski (Blackstock 63'), Lansbury, Cox, Sharp
Subs not used: Evtimov, Harding, McGugan, Greening, Moloney
Scorer: Cohen 31'
Booking: Ward 60'
Derby: Legzdins, Brayford, Keogh, O'Brien, Roberts, Coutts, Hughes, Hendrick, Bryson (Jacobs 78'), Ward (Robinson 67'), Sammon
Subs not used: Fielding, Davies, Freeman, O'Connor, Bennett
Scorer: Ward 52'
Referee: Mark Clattenburg