Super sub Lee Novak stepped off the bench to earn Blues a point at Pride Park.
The striker was introduced as a 66th minute substitute with Blues trailing to Jamie Ward's first-half goal.
And the summer signing made an immediate impact by hammering home Paul Caddis' cross with his first touch.
It was a thoroughly deserved point for Lee Clark's men who put in a resolute display against an in-form Rams side rejuvenated under Steve McLaren.
However, it was a rocky start for the visitors with Ward close to handing Derby the lead after just two minutes. The forward beat the offside trap on the left and found himself with only Darren Randolph to beat, however the Republic of Ireland international made a smart save with his legs.
Nikola Zigic was a menace at set pieces throughout for Blues and had his first chance in the eighth minute when he connected with Shane Ferguson's corner to send a header just wide.
Derby did have the lion's share of chances in the first-half and Dan Burn was called on to make a goalline clearance on the half-an-hour mark. A quickly-taken free-kick gifted Craig Bryson with a glorious chance that squirmed past Randolph but couldn't beat Burn.
Zigic had his best chance of the afternoon in the 33rd minute by leaving the Derby woodwork shaking with a powerful header from Ferguson's corner from the right.
Then came the first blow for Blues with the talismanic Chris Burke being forced off with a tight hamstring in the 36th minute to be replaced by 17-year-old Demarai Gray. In fairness to the young academy product, Gray was an impressive livewire during his second first-team appearance.
Derby got their noses in front in the 39th minute. Bryson's low ball from the left was diverted goalwards by Chris Martin; Randolph made a fine save but David Murphy failed to connect with the clearance and Ward was lurking to send the ball home at the far post.
Blues started the second-half brightly with Gray and Zigic going close before the arrival of Novak for Andy Shinnie. With the announcement of the substitution still reverberating around Pride Park, Novak found himself on the end of a high Caddis delivery and emphatically thumped home a volley that gave Lee Grant no chance.
The game remained on a knife-edge. Paul Robinson cleared Derby sub Mason Bennett's effort off the line while, at the other end, Gray could have capped a fine performance with a goal only to divert his chance from Ferguson's cross straight at Grant.
Another Rams sub, Conor Sammon, put hearts in the mouths of Bluenoses by sending a close range chance just wide of the mark in the 81st minute.
Ferguson tried his luck for Blues seven minutes later by cutting in from the left but there was to be no further drama as both sides settled for a well-battled point.