Huddersfield Town missed the chance to pile huge pressure on Newcastle in the Championship promotion race as Jacob Butterfield’s late equaliser for Derby confirmed Brighton’s place in the Premier League.
Butterfield struck with two minutes to go to ensure Huddersfield dropped two points to mathematically seal Brighton’s place in the top flight after 34 years away.
That was after Chris Hughton’s side beat Wigan 2-1 at home earlier in the afternoon to spark wild celebrations at the Amex Stadium.
With Brighton’s party atmosphere spreading to the Amex Stadium, a delighted Hughton claimed that his side’s push to the top flight had been fuelled by last season’s failure to gain promotion. However, he believed that it was not due to the attempt to right a wrong, but rather to replicate the positivity of being at the right end of the league table.
"It had something to do with how the season ended last season, but I think it was more the fact that the players enjoyed being up that end of the table, competing, getting into the play-offs,” Hughton told BBC Radio 5 Live after the match.
"I think it was a conscious decision that they wanted that again, and the signs were there early in the season.
"We recruited well early in the season, in the summer, but it was a real steely determination from the group of players that wanted to do it again."
But there was relief on Tyneside, where Newcastle fans knew a Huddersfield win would have moved the Terriers within five points of Rafa Benitez’s side with a game in hand.
Instead, Newcastle are six points clear of Reading and seven above Huddersfield despite 3-1 at Ipswich Town to extend their mini-slump to just one point in their last three games.
Huddersfield fans ended the game singing ‘Newcastle United, we’re coming for you’ but their chances of overhauling the Magpies now look remote and David Wagner’s side look destined for a place in the play-offs despite Colin Quaner’s second goal in four days.
Huddersfield wasted no time in responding to Newcastle’s slip-up as the raced into a ninth-minute lead with a goal of real authority.
Joe Lolley’s neat pass released overlapping full-back Martin Crainie, whose superb cross invited Quaner to score.
The striker accepted the invitation gladly, producing the deftest of touches into the bottom corner of Scott Carson’s goal.
Derby thought they had responded immediately when Tom Ince’s cross was flicked on by Matej Vydra and nodded home by Darren Bent.
But the celebrations were halted abruptly by a linesman’s offside flag.
And on 22 minutes Bent’s frustration was compounded when he pounced on Ince’s corner with a shot on the turn which was blocked on the line, where a crowd of Terriers defenders were stationed.
The remainder of the first half was a tepid affair as Huddersfield dominated possession but struggled to convert it into chances while Derby appeared lacking in urgency with their hopes of reaching the play-offs all but gone.
Joe Lolley made a powerful burst down the right for Huddersfield as half-time approached but Will Hughes made a headed interception.
A rare burst of Derby urgency just before half-time saw Ikechi Anya hammer a cross towards the far post, causing momentary confusion in the Huddersfield penalty area, but Wagner’s men cleared to secure the half-time advantage.
Derby made a more spirited start to the second period and Ikechi Anya might have drawn them level in the opening minutes.
He hit a powerful effort with his right foot that was scrambled around the post crucially by Huddersfield goalkeeper Danny Ward.
The home side continued to press for an equaliser, apparently with a renewed sense of purpose following their half-time meeting with Rowett.
Marcus Olsson galloped down the left flank and delivered a dangerous cross that Huddersfield struggled to deal with, but a collision between Bent and Vydra prevented either from getting a clean header on goal.
The standard of the game did not improve in the closing stages with excitement scarce as Huddersfield held on desperately to their all-important lead.
And when an opportunity did arise for Derby to test Ward with a 20-yard free-kick, Bent sent it hopelessly high and wide.
But they finally rescued a point with two minutes remaining as Butterfield stuck a long-range shot that nestled into the bottom corner.
Derby (4-2-3-1): Carson; Christie, Keogh, Pearce, Olsson; Hughes, Johnson (Butterfield 71); Ince (Camara 71), Vydra (Russell 71), Anya; Bent. Subs not used: Mitchell, Bryson, Baird, M Lowe. Booked: Camara, Hefele.
Huddersfield (4-2-3-1): Ward; Cranie (Smith 61), Hefele, Schindler, C Lowe, Mooy, Whitehead; Lolley (Hogg 79), Kachunga, Van La Parra (Wells 67); Quaner. Booked: Van La Parra. Subs not used: Coleman, Hudson, Scannell, Payne.
Referee: Darren Bond.
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