Everton, already stretched by injuries and suspensions, were disrupted by the loss from their defence of David Unsworth, who did not reappear for the second half after sustaining a calf strain. But Derby, who had tended to overelaborate before the break, as well as allowing their opponents too much time and space, were an altogether different proposition after it.
They thoroughly deserved to come out on top, their only disappointment a hamstring injury to the striker Paulo Wanchope that rules him out at least for next Saturday's FA Cup fifth-round tie at Huddersfield.
It would be unfair to say that Everton looked like relegation material but their chronic inability to produce a regular stream of goals - they have scored only 14 in 24 Premiership matches - remains a major concern. "Morale has been good but it is important that we don't lose that," Everton's manager, Walter Smith, said. "I was disappointed that we did not hang on for a point but, then again, we had three 18-year-olds on the field and it is asking a lot. Losing Unsworth did not help, leaving us short of power in the air."
One of those youngsters, the prolific youth team marksman Francis Jeffers, was making his first start one month on from his 19th birthday, coming into this match from a midweek hat-trick in an FA Youth Cup tie against Swindon. He made an impressive beginning, playing an important role in Barmby's goal, although the pace and tension of the occasion took their toll in the later stages.
Derby enjoyed early possession, going close through Francesco Baiano's header and Lee Carsley's 25-yard drive, but after 37 minutes they paid for their tendency to make one pass to many when Wanchope lost possession at the edge of the Everton box. The ball was played forward to Ibrahima Bakayoko, who was afforded time to find Olivier Dacourt in midfield. The Frenchman threaded a pass to Jeffers, who took the ball inside Igor Stimac and was lining up a shot for himself when Barmby spotted a gap to Russell Hoult's left and stole the ball from the youngster's feet to slot it home.
The goal was Everton's first in six hours and six minutes of Premiership play but the reorganisation required when Unsworth stayed in the dressing room after half-time disturbed their rhythm. Michael Ball dropped into the back three and Mitch Ward, who began as right wing-back, was obliged to switch flanks as 18-year-old Adam Farley stepped out for his senior debut.
Within five minutes of the restart, a much livelier and more incisive Derby, encouraged by Smith to "get the ball forward quicker", had drawn level. Baiano found Wanchope with a fine ball from left to right and the Costa Rican striker advanced towards the byline before crossing low and awkwardly for Burton, who made no mistake from half a dozen yards.
Thereafter, Derby were markedly the superior side, creating a number of chances and having a legitimate penalty claim turned down by the referee Graham Poll after the ball struck Dave Watson's hand. The introduction of Kevin Harper and Darryl Powell with 15 minutes left gave them even more zip and their reward came with six minutes left on the clock.
Wanchope climbed to meet Stefano Eranio's corner with a firm header that Thomas Myhre could only palm into the air. A clutch of players jumped for the loose ball but Burton produced the biggest leap to nod home his seventh goal of the season.
Derby County (3-4-1-2): Hoult; Prior, Carbonari, Stimac; Laursen (Powell, 75), Eranio, Carsley, Dorigo; Baiano (Harper, 75); Burton, Wanchope (Hunt, 89). Substitutes not used: Christie, Knight (gk).
Everton (3-5-2): Myhre; Dunne, Watson, Unsworth (Farley, h-t); Ward, Hutchison, Dacourt, Barmby, Ball; Jeffers, Bakayoko. Substitutes not used: Grant, Oster, Jevons, Simonsen (gk).
Referee: G Poll (Tring).
Bookings: Derby: Laursen, Powell. Everton: Dunne, Ward, Dacourt.
Man of the match: Burton.
Attendance: 27,603.Reuse content