Blues suffered late, late heartbreak as they went down to a stoppage time goal from Tom Ince at St. Andrew’s.
Gianfranco Zola’s side looked to be heading towards a deserved point after Che Adams had levelled Derby’s early opener.
But it was not to be as Ince took advantage of a long punt forward with less than a minute of the game to go.
Zola made three changes to the side that were beaten at Brighton, with Lukas Jutkiewicz, Paul Robinson and David Davis coming in for Clayton Donaldson, Cheick Keita and Stephen Gleeson.
In glorious sunshine at St. Andrew’s, Blues kicked off towards the Tilton Road end of the ground.
The early pressure came from the visitors and they found themselves ahead under fortuitous circumstances in less than three minutes.
Ince’s pass found Jacob Butterfield in front of the Blues area. The Derby man teed the ball up before hitting a powerful low shot which struck the base of the post before rebounding, hitting Tomasz Kuszczak on the back and deflecting into the roof of the net.
Having fallen behind so early, Blues began to show much more attacking intent of their own and won two corners in quick succession.
With 25 minutes played Blues thought they had found an equaliser when Jutkiewicz met Gardner’s corner and bundled the ball over the line. But much to the anger of the Blues players and fans, referee David
Coote adjudged that the Blues striker had fouled Derby keeper Scott Carson as he did so.
Che Adams was next to try his luck for the hosts as he drilled a low effort from distance wide of the post.
Blues were thankful to Kuszczak on 35 when the ‘keeper produced a fine diving save to deny Richard Keogh after the Derby skipper had connected with David Nugent’s cross close in
At the other end of the pitch Adams went on a surging run down the right flank before sending in a telling cross which Carson managed to push away from just underneath his own crossbar.
Carson was called back into action just a minute later when he had to get down low at his near post to deny Jutkiewicz by pushing the ball behind for a corner.
As the half drew to a close Blues continued to press and Adams saw his stinging shot deflected for a corner.
Half-time: Blues 0 Derby County 1
Once again it was Derby that started the half more positively and within two minutes Kuszczak was called into action as he was forced to push away Johnny Russell’s powerful shot.
Grounds was inches away from opening his account when he met a free-kick from the left, but the ball bobbled just wide of the post.
Blues had a golden opportunity to level after the ball dropped kindly to Craig Gardner after Davis’ shot was blocked, but the midfielder smashed a left-footed shot just the wrong side of the upright.
Blues were continuing to enjoy most of the play, but were struggling to get through a Derby side that was largely putting every player behind the ball and looking to hit Blues on the occasional counter-attack.
But on 69 the hosts finally made a breakthrough when Adams fired home from just two yards.
Gardner sent in a corner, where it was met by Jutkiewicz who nodded it on towards the far post where Adams stabbed it home under pressure.
With the game heading into the final minutes both sides continued to search for a winner, but it was Derby that found it deep into stoppage time. And it was one that could so easily have been prevented by the hosts.
The ball was launched deep into the Blues half by Carson from his goal kick, where it was met by Tom Ince who lifted it over the onrushing Kuszczak and into an empty Blues net.
Blues must now put the disappointment of this game behind them as they travel to already relegated Rotherham next Friday