IT is the hope that kills you.
After three wins out of four, Barnsley contrived to turn in a listless, dreadful performance in a game that really, really mattered.
Wayne Rooney spoke of being fed up before the game regarding the inability of Derby to sort themselves out off the field.
On it, they got their act together here on an afternoon when they out-smarted, out-fought and out-ran a Barnsley side who were way, way off the heights of the previous weekend.
Ultimately, the Reds got what they deserved, which was nothing after Ravel Morison’s brace with the former Manchester United player displaying the aplomb that has been all too infrequent in a career which saw him tipped to be a star as a teenager.
Sadly, for Barnsley’s sake, it was back to something akin to square one on an afternoon when few Barnsley players came equipped for the fight, Carlton Morris not withstanding.
Barnsley made the one change and it was an enforced one with Jordan Williams missing out with injury and Callum Brittain returning to the starting line-up.
As expected, Rams talisman Tom Lawrence was immediately restored to the home line-up after serving a suspension, while Malcolm Ebiowei was handed a first start on the right.
It was a game which had huge significance for both sides. The result was the be-all and end-all, but in the event, Derby got a performance to compliment their strong first-half display which yielded a merited lead.
So impressive in the opening 45 minutes seven days earlier against Middlesbrough, Barnsley were a massive disappointment a week on and a positive from the first half was that the scoreline was not more damaging.
The big performances came from those in white, with Lawrence, Max Bird and Festy Ebosele all being particularly impressive.
It was the mercurial Morrison who produced the breakthrough midway through the half, with a quality moment not in keeping with a game pitting two sides scrapping for their lives at the wrong end of the table.
Lawrence played the ball into Luke Plange, following an outrageous dummy from Morrison.
Plange teed up Morrison and he deliciously dinked the ball over the onrushing for a lovely opener with Barnsley undressed with some fine one-touch football.
In truth, it had been coming with Plange missing a golden opportunity early on after Brittain’s skewed clearance from Lawrence’s free-kick left him in the clear down the left channel.
Barnsley’s best opportunity arrived after Morrison’s opener, with Carlton Morris getting the better of young Rams defender Eiran Cashin down the right before cutting inside and seeing his low shot blocked at his near post by the alert Ryan Allsop.
But the conviction nearly exclusively came from those in white with Morrison going close to a second shortly after the half-hour mark when his drive from distance clipped the bar after being set up by the outstanding Ebosele.
After a first half which saw last weekend’s leading lights in the likes of Amine Bassi and Domingos Quina struggle to get into the game, the onus on Barnsley was to up their game significantly.
Sadly, the opposite happened with Morrison and Lawrence combining superbly.
Morrison played in Lawrence down the left, with Brittain letting the pass go under his legs and after Lawrence shuddered the bar with a rasping drive, Morrison tucked away the loose ball, low past Collins.
It was the prelude to a hearty chorus of ‘We are staying up’ from the delighted Rams hordes after the perfect start to the second half.
A lob deflected over from Claudio Gomes deflected over in a rare Reds foray before another error almost resulted in a third for the hosts.
Morris, comfortably the player most likely for the visitors, then saw his curling free-kick tipped over by Allsop as the Reds sought a lifeline.
Asbaghi made changes with Wolfe and Gomes brought off with Josh Benson and Styles left to occupy the central area of midfield.
Bassi bent a free-kick off target as Derby looked happy to sit on their precious gains and see out the game. They had earned that right..
Derby County: Allsop; Byrne, Davies, Cashin, Ebosele; Bielik (Thompson 79), Bird; Ebiowei (Buchanan 65), Morrison (Knight 79), Lawrence; Plange. Substitutes unused: Roos, Stearman, Sibley, Kazim-Richards
Barnsley: Collins; Britain (Kitching 84), Helik, Andersen, Vita; Wolfe (Benson 61), Gomes (Oduor 70); Styles, Bassi, Quina; Morris. Substitutes unused: Walton, Palmer, Halme, Cole.
Referee: R Jones (Merseyside).
Attendance: 25,891 (1,604 Barnsley supporters).