Brighton secured back-to-back league wins for the first time since September after goals by Ashley Barnes and Andrea Orlandi sentenced Derby to defeat.
Barnes gave the hosts the perfect start after good work by David Lopez allowed him to score from close range.
Spanish midfielder Orlandi doubled the lead with a powerful header following a cross by Inigo Calderon.
Jeff Hendrick netted a consolation for Derby, who have now lost three of their last five league games.
The hosts would have won by a bigger margin but Adam Legzdins did well to block Will Buckley as the Brighton player looked set to score a third for his side.
Brighton are three points behind sixth-placed Watford in the Championship table.
Barnes scored with the game less than 80 seconds old after Lopez picked out a low pass which allowed him to tap home.
New year, new Brighton
Brighton have made a 100% winning start to 2013. This was their second straight win of the calendar year while Gus Poyet's side defeated Newcastle in the FA Cup 2-0 on 5 January
And it went from bad to worse for Derby.
Lopez teed up Calderon to whip in a cross from the right for Orlandi to net his second goal in as many games.
Hendrick set up a grandstand finish after the 20-year-old got a touch to Jamie Ward's free-kick to divert the ball past Tomasz Kuszczak.
Brighton manager Gus Poyet:
"To come back with three wins is down to the players.
"We took advantage of the situation in our FA Cup game against Newcastle and need to keep going.
"It's up to me to manage the squad well and keep us strong."
Derby manager Nigel Clough:
"We had two inexperienced 20-year-olds at the back and didn't have the experience that Brighton had in their side.
"I didn't see too many teenagers in the Brighton side and their players know their jobs and know the game.
"But I never felt that we were out of it, even at 2-0 down. We were very spirited."
Live Text Commentary
Full Time The referee ends the match.90:00 +5:01
Free kick taken by Adam Legzdins.90:00 +5:01 Booking
Booking The referee books Wayne Bridge for dissent.90:00 +4:44
Free kick awarded for a foul by Dean Hammond on Michael Jacobs.90:00 +2:53
The assistant referee flags for offside against Kazenga LuaLua. Free kick taken by Adam Legzdins.90:00 +2:06
Free kick awarded for a foul by Theo Robinson on Dean Hammond. Free kick taken by Tomasz Kuszczak.90:00 +0:30 Booking
Booking Booking for Michael Jacobs for unsporting behaviour.90:00 +0:07
Unfair challenge on Kazenga LuaLua by Michael Jacobs results in a free kick. Gordon Greer takes the indirect free kick.89:19
Outswinging corner taken by Ben Davies from the right by-line, Dean Hammond manages to make a clearance.87:34
Gordon Greer takes the indirect free kick.87:34 Substitution
Substitution Moreno David Lopez goes off and Andrew Crofts comes on.87:34
Theo Robinson concedes a free kick for a foul on Liam Bridcutt.86:31 Substitution
Substitution Theo Robinson joins the action as a substitute, replacing Mark O'Brien.86:13
Kazenga LuaLua has an effort at goal from outside the penalty box missing to the wide right of the goal.85:06
Gordon Greer takes the free kick.85:06 Booking
Booking Booking for Mark O'Brien for unsporting behaviour.84:53
Mark O'Brien concedes a free kick for a foul on Ashley Barnes.82:49
Corner from the right by-line taken by Ben Davies, save made by Tomasz Kuszczak.81:17
Michael Jacobs has a shot on goal from outside the area which misses right.79:50
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Kazenga LuaLua by John Brayford. Adam El-Abd takes the free kick.
Liam Bridcutt challenges Michael Jacobs unfairly and gives away a free kick. Free kick taken by Gareth Roberts.75:15
Shot from inside the area by Ashley Barnes clears the bar.75:15 Substitution
Substitution Kazenga LuaLua on for Will Buckley.75:15 Substitution
Substitution Andrea Orlandi leaves the field to be replaced by Gary Dicker.75:15
Moreno David Lopez takes a inswinging corner from the right by-line to the near post,73:47
Corner taken by Andrea Orlandi played to the near post, Gordon Greer takes a shot. Adam Legzdins makes a save.73:12
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Moreno David Lopez by Ben Davies. Andrea Orlandi restarts play with the free kick.72:36
Wayne Bridge takes the free kick.72:36 Booking
Booking Ben Davies booked for unsporting behaviour.72:23
Ben Davies challenges Wayne Bridge unfairly and gives away a free kick.69:54
Assist by Jamie Ward.69:54 Goal scored
Goal! - Jeff Hendrick - Brighton 2 - 1 Derby Goal scored by Jeff Hendrick from inside the six-yard box low into the middle of the goal. Brighton 2-1 Derby.69:04
Liam Bridcutt challenges Jeff Hendrick unfairly and gives away a free kick. Jamie Ward restarts play with the free kick,66:32
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Ben Davies by Liam Bridcutt. Ben Davies has a direct shot on goal from the free kick, save made by Tomasz Kuszczak.65:02
Ben Davies takes the indirect free kick.65:02 Booking
Booking Andrea Orlandi receives a caution for unsporting behaviour.64:56
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on John Brayford by Andrea Orlandi.63:08
Andrea Orlandi takes a shot. Save by Adam Legzdins.61:20 Substitution
Substitution Michael Jacobs joins the action as a substitute, replacing Kieron Freeman.58:36 Booking
Booking Kieron Freeman receives a yellow card.58:27
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Andrea Orlandi by Kieron Freeman. Free kick taken by Liam Bridcutt.57:37
Corner taken left-footed by Andrea Orlandi, Ashley Barnes challenges Ben Davies unfairly and gives away a free kick. Adam Legzdins takes the indirect free kick.57:14
Will Buckley takes a shot. Save by Adam Legzdins.56:33
Outswinging corner taken by Ben Davies.52:53
Inswinging corner taken from the right by-line by Moreno David Lopez.51:29
Effort from just outside the area by Jamie Ward goes over the target.46:27
Corner taken by Andrea Orlandi from the left by-line, Close range headed effort by Inigo Calderon misses to the right of the goal.45:01
The match restarts for the second half.45:00 +3:12 Half time
Half Time The ref blows to end the first period.44:53 Substitution
Substitution (Derby) makes a substitution, with Jamie Ward coming on for Will Hughes.39:20
Short corner taken by Ben Davies from the left by-line.38:11
Will Hughes fouled by Ashley Barnes, the ref awards a free kick. Will Hughes restarts play with the free kick.37:18
Dean Hammond gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Will Hughes. Indirect free kick taken by Gareth Roberts.36:16
Foul by Richard Keogh on Ashley Barnes, free kick awarded. Moreno David Lopez takes the indirect free kick.34:43
Outswinging corner taken right-footed by Ben Davies from the right by-line, Mark O'Brien produces a headed effort from deep inside the six-yard box which goes wide of the right-hand upright.32:39
Will Buckley challenges Will Hughes unfairly and gives away a free kick. Adam Legzdins takes the free kick.24:29
Assist on the goal came from Inigo Calderon.24:29 Goal scored
Goal! - Andrea Orlandi - Brighton 2 - 0 Derby Andrea Orlandi finds the back of the net with a headed goal from close in. Brighton 2-0 Derby.21:02
Gareth Roberts gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Will Buckley. Free kick taken by Inigo Calderon.19:28
Will Buckley is ruled offside. Adam Legzdins takes the free kick.18:03
Unfair challenge on Inigo Calderon by Paul Coutts results in a free kick. Gordon Greer takes the indirect free kick.16:31
Kieron Freeman challenges Andrea Orlandi unfairly and gives away a free kick. Wayne Bridge takes the free kick.8:16
Dean Hammond concedes a free kick for a foul on Jeff Hendrick. Ben Davies takes the free kick.7:56
Foul by Moreno David Lopez on Will Hughes, free kick awarded. Free kick taken by Will Hughes.7:24
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Richard Keogh by Ashley Barnes. Indirect free kick taken by Kieron Freeman.1:18 Goal scored
Goal! - Ashley Barnes - Brighton 1 - 0 Derby Ashley Barnes scores a goal from inside the area low into the middle of the goal. Brighton 1-0 Derby.0:00
The referee gets the match started.
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