Craig Forsyth’s first goal in more than five years earned Derby a vital 1-0 home win against Reading.
The 32-year-old left-back’s first-half header moved the Rams to within seven points of a position of safety following their 12-point deduction for entering administration.
Forsyth, who last netted during a 1-0 triumph at Preston in August 2016, also played his part at the other end of the pitch, where Derby boast the Championship’s second-best defensive record.
Wayne Rooney’s men, buoyed by a defiantly vocal crowd who are yet to see their team lose at Pride Park this season, dominated possession during the early stages without threatening the away goal.
Instead, it was Reading who managed the first goal attempt of the evening with Alen Halilovic curling wide from 15 yards in the ninth minute.
After Tom Lawrence ballooned a 30-yard free-kick well over, George Puscas’ header was then caught by home keeper Ryan Allsop following Halilovic’s dead-ball delivery.
Halilovic also fired wide of Allsop’s near post from the edge of the box after slack play on the left side of the home defence.
But the Rams gradually started to find some purpose to their play in the final third with Ravel Morrison’s intelligently disguised pass into the penalty box picking out Lawrence, whose shot on the turn was tipped over by Luke Southwood.
Moments later, Allsop had to make a strong parry after an overlapping Baba Rahman had charged on to Ovie Ejaria’s pass through the left channel.
It was Rooney’s men, though, who forged in front in the 33rd minute when Jason Knight chipped in a cross from close to the right byline and Forsyth looped a header back in the direction the ball had come from and watched it drop over covering defender Josh Laurent inside the far post.
The goal ended a 104-game drought for the former Scotland international.
Southwood went on to smother a Lawrence opportunity, while Allsop reacted smartly to keep out a stinging Tom Dele-Bashiru drive before gathering John Swift’s tame follow-up effort more routinely in first-half stoppage time.
In the second period, Halilovic shot wide on the counter-attack after Morrison had given the ball away cheaply in the away half, before Jack Stretton cut in from the right and tested Southwood with a low drive.
Allsop was more seriously extended just past the hour when he made a flying save to push Swift’s firm edge-of-the-box strike behind for a corner.
Swift also fired into Allsop’s arms from a similar distance shortly afterwards, while the midfielder’s corner was headed well over by Andy Yiadom.
For Derby, Lawrence’s low 30-yard attempt was well held by Southwood and, as the clock ran down, a tired Danny Drinkwater steered a weak effort wide at the other end.
Home hearts were then in mouths at the death when Laurent headed wide from eight yards with the goal at his mercy, but the final whistle was greeted with a collective roar from the Rams faithful moments later.