Sheffield United’s greater work-rate and hunger was rewarded with two gift-wrapped goals as they made it three wins from three at Bramall Lane by accounting for a lacklustre Derby County.
Chris Wilder’s side were good value for their most prized scalp since their return to the second tier and even withstood a late rally from Derby after they pulled a goal back in stoppage time.
The Blades needed two huge slices of luck, however, to claim the win.
First, Derby goalkeeper Scott Carson kicked a back pass straight into the path of Billy Sharp who returned it with interest with a first-time shot into the unguarded goal on four minutes.
Sheffield United ratings: John Fleck bosses midfield battle as Blades sink Derby County at Bramall Lane
Then shortly before the break, Johnny Russell fired past his own goalkeeper when trying to clear as Caolan Lavery shaped to shoot after Keiron Freeman’s cut back.
Derby carried a threat in the first half, attacking the channels behind United’s back three.
But whenever they got too close, either the towering presence of Jack O’Connell was there to deal with it, or busy midfielder John Fleck was tracking back to make a superb challenge.
The visitors did, though, make it a nervy end to proceedings for the Blades when substitute Craig Bryson ghosted in to head Bradley Johnson’s cross beyond Jamal Blackman.
But that urgency from the Rams came too late and only served to heighten the drama as Carson went forward for a corner and was nowhere to be seen when Sharp latched onto a clearance and steered the ball into the empty net for a second time.
Nick Westby's Analysis: Blades show their steel at Bramall Lane
It's easy this Championship lark, isn't it? Three home games, three wins for Sheffield United and against their toughest visiting opposition to date - or at least that's what you'd expect in terms of promotion credentials when you stack Derby against Brentford and Barnsley. And yet United's most satisfying win was probably their easiest, given the two soft goals Derby gifted them in that decisive first half. The key now for the Blades is taking this confidence, that energy and momentum, into their away games. They cannot rely for ever on their marvellous home form.
Read a full in-depth analysis in Monday's Yorkshire Post.