Forest's caretaker manager, Stuart Pearce, had demanded three victories. Now, even an unlikely haul of six points from the visit of Wimbledon and a trip to Newcastle may not be enough to prevent their sliding into the First Division for the second time in four years.
Earlier in the season this scoreline would have satisfied Forest. Last night their general manager, Dave Bassett, admitted they needed "freakish results and absolute miracles" to stay up. "Put it this way," he said, "I won't be going out to put pounds 1 on it."
Derby performed with a freedom befitting a side clear of the drop zone. They might have been two goals up before Forest made a serious foray into their half. A fourth minute mistake by Vance Warner, making only his second start this season, let in Dean Sturridge. Derby's top scorer unleashed a rising drive which Fettis clawed to safety.
Midway through the first half, one of Jim Smith's Costa Rican recruits, Paulo Wanchope, met Jacob Laursen's free-kick with a downward header. The ball reared up to shake the underside of the bar, and the escape seemed to stir Forest.
First, Scot Gemmill's low shot tested Martin Taylor, Derby's third keeper in four games. Taylor was then beaten by Steve Chettle's 30-yard shot, only for the ball to twang the woodwork on its way over.
Fettis, deputising for Mark Crossley, saved bravely at the feet of Sturridge and Paul Trollope as Derby resumed their siege in the second half. A free- kick by Aljosa Asanovic drew further defiance from the northern Irishman.
Pierre van Hooijdonk, whose goals were supposed to save Forest, skied a good chance to add to his solitary strike in seven games. Dean Saunders, jeered by a Derby crowd who once hailed him as their own, was also too high with a reasonable opportunity. But it was symptomatic of Forest's season that Fettis, whose best save came when he dived to smother Gary Rowett's free header, remained the busier keeper until belated but unproductive Forest pressure.
Derby County (3-5-2): Taylor; Laursen, Rowett, Dailly; Carsley, Van der Laan, Asanovic, Trollope, C Powell; Wanchope (Ward, 80), Sturridge. Substitutes not used: Willems, Simpson, Solis, Poom (gk).
Nottingham Forest (3-5-2): Fettis; Warner, Phillips, Chettle; Lyttle, Gemmill (Moore, 84), O'Neil, Woan (Haland, 70), Allen; Saunders, Van Hooijdonk. Substitutes not used: Smith, Burns, Hendry (gk).
Referee: G Poll (Tring, Herts).