It is hard to see Derby failing to achieve Steve McClaren’s promotion goal after a result that maintains their two-point lead in the Championship and keeps a healthy gap between themselves and the play-off places.
Charlton did not subside in the way Derby’s vibrant first-half form suggested they might and having achieved their first wins for new coach Guy Luzon they have enough to anticipate a strong finish to the season. But Derby, with one defeat in 12 now, never looked like letting victory slip through their grasp.
Lately, Derby have made things difficult for themselves by conceding the first goal, needing to come from behind to win points in each of their previous three matches. This time, they ensured emphatically that there would be no repeat.
Bright, lively and creating openings from the outset, they took control within the first 17 minutes as goals from Jeff Hendrick and a first for the club by Jesse Lingard, the winger on loan from Manchester United, gave the home crowd cause to anticipate a another step towards the goal of promotion.
First Will Hughes and Darren Bent combined to unlock the Charlton defence, a deft pass from the young midfielder finding Bent in space behind the full-back. Bent in turn delivered a low cross into the six-yard box, where Hendrick arrived to score his eighth goal of the season.
The Republic of Ireland international was the key player in this early passage of play, laying the ball off for Tom Ince to shoot narrowly wide before delivering another well-timed pass as Lingard made a run into the penalty area and finished the move superbly, slotting the ball left-footed across Stephen Henderson into the corner of the net.
Hughes came within a whisker of making it 3-0, with Hendrick again supplying the pass. But Charlton, buoyed by recording back-to-back wins, had a response, and seeing goalkeeper Lee Grant called into action twice in quick succession by Chris Solly and then Johann Gudmundsson persuaded McClaren to make an appearance in the technical area, from which he watched the first half close with Hendrick’s dipping shot coming back off the bar.
For the second half, Charlton introduced Alou Diarra, the former France captain they have signed as a free agent, and his presence in front of the back four made them more solid, although Derby looked capable of stepping up a gear.
Derby County (4-3-3): Grant; Christie, Keogh, Shotton, Forsyth; Hughes (Bryson, 76), Thorne (Mascarell, 71), Hendrick; Ince, Bent, Lingard (Dawkins, 69). Substitutes not used: Roos (gk), Buxton, Ward, Thomas.
Charlton Athletic (4-4-2): Henderson; Solly, Ben Haim, Johnson, Fox; Gudmundsson, Wilson (Diarra, h-t), Buyens, Bulot (Eagles, 68); Watt (Harriott, 71), Vetokele. Susbtitutes not used: Dmitrovic (gk), Gomez, Bikey, Lepoint.
Referee: D Coote (Nottinghamshire)