Leeds, jeered off by their followers after the previous weekend's FA Cup exit, took their goal tally to nine in the two Premiership fixtures since with a classic exhibition of counter- attacking. They were abetted by some of the most abject defending imaginable by Derby, who began the afternoon with the division's best home record, but ended it in total disarray.
At Elland Road, Derby had surged into a 3-0 lead, only to surrender by the odd goal in seven in the final seconds. On this occasion, Jim Smith's side simply carried on where they left off. Despite enjoying a greater share of possession, they looked like a team who were still mentally on the beach, as they had been in Spain while Leeds were being thrown to the Wolves.
Leeds' success, which lifts them into fifth place with a drastically improved goal difference, was all the more stunning for the fact that Graham had chosen to change his line-up after Wednesday's 4-0 defeat of Blackburn. For the second time in eight days, he dropped both David Hopkin and David Wetherall - captain and vice- captain respectively - but his ruthlessness found an echo in the finishing of those who did play.
Jimmy Hasselbaink, operating as a lone striker in the absence of the suspended Rod Wallace, had an outstanding game. The Dutchman, who took a while to adjust to the rigours of the English game, dragged the Derby rearguard hopelessly out of shape, allowing eager runners to pour into the gaps from midfield.
The rout began in the worst possible way for Derby with an eighth-minute own goal. Gary Kelly swung a free-kick into the six-yard area, which should have made it Mart Poom's ball. The Estonian stayed rooted to his line, disconcerting Jacob Laursen sufficiently for him to divert the ball into the net under pressure from Alf Inge Haaland.
Derby rallied briefly, with a corner by Gary Rowett hitting the far post after 20 minutes, but it was already clear that Graham's strategy was reducing their effectiveness. Lucas Radebe found time not only to break up attacks but invariably nullified Smith's most influential player, Francesco Baiano.
It was no surprise when Leeds cut loose to score twice in the nine minutes before half time. Gunnar Halle, charging up from the right flank, doubled the advantage after Hasselbaink had passed low from the left.
Then it was the turn of Harry Kewell to mesmerise the right of Derby's defence before crossing. Haaland's touch betrayed him and Darryl Powell scrambled the ball away, yet only as far as Lee Bowyer, whose 15-yard drive Poom reached but could not stop.
The Leeds contingent had been singing: "Three-nil and you cocked it up" in reference to the previous encounter. Any hopes Derby had of mounting a similar revival rested on their scoring early in the second half, but Nigel Martyn blocked Paulo Wanchope's 46th-minute shot with his legs.
It was all the warning Leeds needed. Shortly before the hour, Kewell worked a one-two with Hasselbaink in the centre circle. Running on with beautiful balance, the Australian glided round Christian Dailly and drew the keeper before coolly dispatching his seventh goal of the season.
Leeds were still hungry for more. After sending on Stephen McPhail, an Irish teenager he likens to the young Liam Brady, Graham was rewarded when the substitute's first touch launched a quite marvellous pass from his own half. The ball cleared Igor Stimac, enabling Hasselbaink to race clear before placing his 16th goal of the season beyond the shell-shocked Poom.
Goals: Laursen og (8) 0-1; Halle (36) 0-2; Bowyer (42) 0-3; Kewell (59) 0-4; Hasselbaink (72) 0-5.
Derby County: (3-4-1-2) Poom; Dailly, Stimac, Laursen (Delap, 82); Rowett (C Powell, h-t), Eranio (Hunt, 43), Carsley, D Powell; Baiano; Wanchope, Burton. Substitutes not used: Willems, Hoult (gk).
Leeds United: (4-1-4-1) Martyn; Kelly, Molenaar, Hiden, Harte; Radebe; Halle, Haaland, Bowyer, Kewell (McPhail, 70); Hasselbaink. Substitutes not used: Wetherall, Matthews, Hopkin, Beeney (gk).
Referee: S Lodge (Barnsley).
Bookings: Derby Stimac, Dailly. Leeds Radebe.
Man of the match: Hasselbaink.
Attendance: 30,217.Reuse content