Super-sub Connor Sammon broke the hearts of 10-man Middlesbrough with a late winner as Derby stretched their winning run to four matches to cement fourth place in the Sky Bet Championship table.
Steve McClaren won the League Cup and reached a UEFA Cup final during his tenure as Middlesbrough boss and, in his first managerial game against his old club, he saw his new team emerge somewhat lucky winners as the Teessiders’ brave resistance was finally broken.
Chris Martin had given Derby a 33rd-minute lead with his 10th goal of the season after Boro’s Curtis Main was dismissed.
Dean Whitehead restored parity, before Sammon’s late strike clinched a 2-1 win and the spoils for the Rams.
A cagey opening saw chances at a premium as the game threatened to be strangled by a midfield stalemate.
The pendulum swung Derby’s way after 33 minutes when Boro striker Main left his foot in on Rams defender Buxton and was shown a second yellow card.
The best moment of the half came courtesy of Boro when the lively Albert Adomah skipped past several challenges and burst into the box. Grant was, however, equal to his well-struck shot.
In first-half stoppage-time, the Rams gained the initiative when Bryson’s low cross was prodded in by the sprawling Martin.
With 17 minutes to go, Boro were back on level terms and it was all thanks to Carayol’s artistry.
Superbly winning the ball just by the halfway line, he ran the length of Derby’s half and cut the ball back to Rhys Williams.
His effort was blocked but fell to Whitehead who rammed the ball into the bottom corner.
Derby pinched it at the death when Sammon got onto a bouncing ball to beat stranded Given.
Derby: Grant, Wisdom, Keogh, Buxton, Forsyth, Bryson (Sammon 79), Eustace (Hendrick 46), Hughes, Simon Dawkins (Russell 76), Martin, Ward. Unused substitutes: Keane, Bennett, Legzdins, Cisse.
Middlesbrough: Given, Rhys Williams, Woodgate, Gibson, Friend (Ayala 90), Adomah (Varga 87), Butterfield (Carayol 46), Smallwood, Whitehead, Kamara, Main. Unused substitutes: Richardson, Emnes, Ledesma, Konstantopoulos.
Referee: A Madley (West Yorkshire).