Hull City climbed to second place in the Championship for the first time since they were promoted five years ago as an Abdoulaye Faye header made them only the second visiting side to win at Pride Park this season, although they would prefer that history did not repeat itself in one respect.
At the corresponding stage of last season, Hull had the look of promotion contenders, only to go off the rails over Christmas and the new year with three straight defeats, after which a series of injuries stretched their squad and they fell away.
Manager Steve Bruce had to field a new goalkeeper, giving 28-year-old Swiss-born Eldin Jakupovic his debut in place of David Stockdale, who has been recalled by Fulham, but set up his side to counter-attack and, until Michael Jacobs snatched an equaliser on the stroke of half-time, the tactic seemed to be working.
Hull went ahead with a 25th-minute goal, at which point Jakupovic had not been given a meaningful test of his confidence. Robbie Brady just managed to keep the ball in play on the left wing, and Derby fell behind as the winger’s advance towards goal was not checked and Robert Koren swept home his cross from eight yards.
For the remainder of the half, Derby looked as though they might struggle to impose themselves enough to regain a foothold. But when Faye headed away a corner, the ball found Jacobs just outside the penalty area and the midfielder’s first touch set it up nicely for a clean strike that left Jakupovic well beaten.
Hull needed only five minutes of the second half to regain the lead, this time a Faye header working in their favour as the veteran Senegalese centre-back climbed high at the far post to power home a Brady corner from the right.
Hull came under pressure in the closing stages but the Yorkshire side held on at Pride Park for a fourth consecutive win.
Derby County (4-5-1): Legzdins; Brayford, Keogh, O’Connor, Roberts (Davies, 87); Coutts, Hendrick, Bryson, Hughes, Jacobs (Robinson, 78); Sammon. Substitutes not used: Fielding (gk), Gjokaj, Freeman, Tyson, O’Brien.
Hull City (3-5-1-1): Jakupovic; Chester, Faye, Hobbs; Elmohamady, Meyler, Evans, Quinn, Brady; Koren (Cairney, 89); Simpson (Proschwitz, 76). Substitutes not used: Amos (gk), Rosenior, McLean, McShane, Olofinjana. Referee D Sheldrake (Surrey).