Rob Hulse scored twice as in-form Derby dealt a blow to Preston's Coca-Cola Championship promotion hopes with an emphatic 5-3 victory at Pride Park.
Nigel Clough's side must have feared it was going to be one of those night's when Jon Parkin gave the Lilywhites the lead in the first half.
But the Rams have been resurgent in recent weeks and they were level at the break courtesy of a Billy Jones own goal, then the inspirational Kris Commons put them in front shortly after the break.
Preston responded and equalised through Chris Sedgwick, but the Rams' leading scorer Hulse struck twice either side of a Shaun Barker header to put Derby in control.
Substitute Chris Brown scored Preston's third goal of the night in the second minute of stoppage time, but it was too little, too late as Derby secured a third consecutive home in the league for the first time in three seasons.
The Rams almost got off to a perfect start after six minutes when Michael Tonge stretched to meet Commons' corner but saw his close-range effort cleared off the line.
But it was Preston who took the lead three minutes later when new signing Tom Williams pumped a diagonal ball which was misjudged by Jake Buxton, and Parkin took a touch before firing home with a clinical right-footed finish from just inside the penalty area.
Derby showed a positive response to going behind and Stephen Pearson somehow failed to get any contact on Nicky Hunt's cross after the full-back had played a neat one-two with the impressive Kris Commons.
But the Rams were deservedly level 12 minutes before half-time, albeit with a big slice of luck.
Another dangerous Commons cross was flicked on by Hulse for the onrushing Paul Green and his shot was saved by Andy Lonergan, but rebounded off the unfortunate Jones and crossed the line to draw Derby level.
Less than a minute later full-back Jay McEveley sped away down the left and drove in a powerful cross which evaded Lonergan's despairing dive but thumped against the crossbar.
And the Lilywhites were also denied by the woodwork before half-time when Parkin out-muscled his marker and headed against the bar.
Derby were the brighter side once again at the start of the second half and they were in front three minutes after the break.
Lonergan palmed away a Buxton header and the ball eventually fell invitingly for Commons, who lashed home an unstoppable left-foot strike from six yards out.
However, just as Derby had showed a positive response to going behind, Preston rallied and they were level after 61 minutes when Sedgwick raced into the box and tucked a neat finish into the far corner of the net.
But the visitors were caught napping two minutes later when Buxton picked out Hulse and the striker took the ball on his chest before swivelling and volleying into the bottom-right corner from 16 yards out.
And Derby gave themselves some much needed breathing space with 23 minutes remaining when Commons picked out Barker with an inviting free-kick and the defender scored his second goal in the space of week with a fine header.
Clough's side were causing disarray in the Preston in defence and they added a fifth 14 minutes from time when Lonergan failed to deal with a McEveley cross and Hulse prodded home from close range.
There was still time for Brown to score from close range in stoppage time but the damage had already been done.
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