THE tantalising prospect of the self-styled richest game in world football being an all-Yorkshire affair has moved a huge step closer.
After Sheffield Wednesday had beaten Brighton & Hove Albion 2-0 the previous night, Hull City followed suit with a resounding win of their own.
Abel Hernandez put Steve Bruce’s men ahead on the half hour before Jason Shackell diverted a Moses Odubajo shot past his own goalkeeper just before the break.
Andrew Robertson then rounded things off with a third goal deep into stoppage time.
It means Hull, like Wednesday in their own tie, are firmly in charge going into the return leg.
Bruce got it tactically spot on, deploying Mohamed Diame in a role that meant City had three in central midfield when Derby had the ball.
Then, when Hull claimed possession, Diame’s job was to get forward in support of Hernandez. It gave the Tigers a solid foundation and one that they built on in magnificent fashion to leave the Rams needing an unprecedented turnaround on Tuesday night to deny the East Riding club a fourth visit to Wembley in eight years.
No wonder the delighted 3,000 away fans were chanting ‘Sheffield Wednesday, we’re coming for you…’ long before the end in prospect of meeting in the May 28 final - a game that is worth a minimum £170m to the victors - along with ‘There’s only one team in Yorkshire’.
Tigers defender Michael Dawson said: “To come to a place like this, considering what they’ve done to us this season, is massive.
“We know it’s only halfway, but that’s 3-0, let’s get them back to the KC on Tuesday and get the job done.
“In the league we came up short, but today we were magnificent.”
Derby had won both league games between these two sides in the regular season but the expectation ahead of kick-off was of the contest being a tight one.
It proved to be just that, Derby County perhaps edging the opening 25 minutes but without unduly testing Eldin Jakupovic in the visitors’ goal.
Cyrus Christie provided a couple of dangerous crosses from the right flank and Will Hughes was in typically lively form.
But, despite that, the best the Rams could offer by way of a chance in those opening stages was a Chris Martin half volley that flew over the crossbar.
At the other end, the Tigers also struggled to create a genuine opening with a blocked volley from Robert Snodgrass their most threatening moment of the opening half-hour.
Then, though, Hernandez stepped centre stage. Collecting a deft pass from Jake Livermore in the wake of sloppy play by Bradley Johnson, Hull’s top scorer took one touch before drilling a low shot that beat Scott Carson to nestle in the corner of the net.
Mohamed Diame had an opportunity to double the Tigers’ advantage eight minutes before the break but he he dragged his shot wide after being set up by Andrew Robertson.
City, though, would not be denied and a deflected Moses Odubajo shot totally wrong-footed Carson five minutes before the break
Derby came out knowing an instant response was needed but Curtis Davies proved equal to Tom Ince with a brave block on the edge of his own area.
Robert Snodgrass curled a free-kick just after the hour that Jason Shackell headed clear of danger even though Carson looked to have the ball covered.
Carson had to get down smartly as the game moved into the final quarter to keep out a low shot from Diame.
Hull did have one let-off when Jakupovic, in for the injured Allan McGregor, flapped horrendously at a Christie cross but Craig Bryson was unable to capitalise as his shot screwed wide.
Derby did, finally, muster a shot on target - their first of the afternoon - on 80 minutes but Jacob Butterfield’s effort was easily dealt with by Jakupovic.
Hull’s perfect day was rounded off at the death when a swift break ended with Robertson firing in from the edge of the area.