Every unbeaten run must end somewhere but if Forest could have chosen a venue for theirs to bite the dust, it would not have been here. Yet, 19 league matches after Derby's upwardly mobile neighbours last tasted defeat, Rob Hulse's goal 12 minutes from the end delivered a humbling reminder that the road to the Premier League is never free of bumps.
Indeed, Forest stumbled a lot on Derby's pitch, which was just rutted enough to ensure that the visitors' short, quick-fire passes were less effective than normal. Derby, whose inconsistency has dragged them towards trouble, played a high-tempo, pressing game and were rewarded with their first home win since November.
It was Forest's first away defeat of the season but they rarely looked likely to leave with better than a draw. Save for a Dexter Blackstock header, Derby keeper Stephen Bywater was never asked a question.
Derby's commitment lately has not always met with manager Nigel Clough's approval but this was an improvement, not least from Hulse and Kris Commons. A meeting with his former club usually spurs Commons, whose free-kick, after James Perch had fouled Gary Teale, supplied the cross from which Hulse, at the near post, headed home.
"They have set themselves a standard," the Derby coach Johnny Metgod said. "If Commons – and the rest – can do it against Forest I can't see any reason why they cannot do it in the next 18 games."
Billy Davies, back at Pride Park for the first time since he was sacked midway through Derby's disastrous Premier League adventure of two seasons ago, was magnanimous.
"If these three points keep Derby up I'll be delighted for them," he said. "We never really got going today because they did a good job and never let us play. But I'm very proud of what my team has done and they are allowed an off day."
Both clubs have suspended fines after trouble when they met at the City Ground in August. After a ruckus on the touchline in stoppage time, involving players from each side, they will hope the Football Association are feeling lenient.Reuse content