Mark McGhee, the Brighton manager, had called on his side to show a "backbone of steel", an odd anatomical concept that would presumably explain just why his side seemed so static at times.
Certainly there didn't seem much capacity for movement when Kerry Mayo's misplaced pass was collected by Morten Bisgaard after 13 minutes. The Danish midfielder exchanged the simplest of passes with Grzegorz Rasiak and slid his finish calmly past David Yelldell.
But Brighton showed a steely enough constitution to equalise within a minute. Mark McCammon's volley was beaten away by Lee Camp, but as Mayo returned the ball to the middle, he muscled his way through to head an equaliser.
It was largely thanks to Yelldell, who is on loan from Blackburn, that Derby regained the lead four minutes before half-time. There was nothing especially invidious about Jeff Kenna's ball into the box, but, under pressure from Rasiak, Yelldell fumbled, and Marcus Tudgay jabbed his seventh goal of the season into an open net. The keeper may have survived his ordeal by pink shirt at Elland Road last week, but this was far worse humiliation.
He was forced then to change by a referee concerned his yellow top would clash with his own, and the fashion police were out again yesterday, deciding that Derby's white shirts clashed with Brighton's blue-and-white stripes. The Rams declined Brighton reserves' yellow away kit, instead opting for their own black training tops, with white numbers hastily added.
Black, though, seemed to suit them, and with their measured approach Derby seemed in control until two minutes of outrageous fortune around the hour mark. First McCammon, an impressive and awkward presence throughout, equalised for a second time, as a left-wing cross cannoned off Gary Hart, hit his shins and ricocheted over the line. Then Derby lost Taylor, sent off after a minor spat with McCammon's diminutive strike partner, Leon Knight.
Quality, though, prevailed despite numerical disadvantage. With 18 minutes remaining, the excellent Tudgay ran on to Kenna's ball over the top and lashed home the winner from the edge of the box.