Match ends, Derby County 1, Nottingham Forest 1.
Derby County 1-1 Nottingham Forest: Late Chris Martin strike cancels out Joe Lolley goal
Chris Martin bundled in an injury-time equaliser to salvage a point for Derby County against fellow promotion-hopefuls Nottingham Forest in a dramatic finish to an otherwise low-key East Midlands derby.
Moments after the Rams had substitute Martyn Waghorn sent off for a studs-up challenge, Martin got on the end of a free-kick as it was turned back into the box and just about forced it over the line from close range.
Joe Lolley's early long-range strike had looked to be enough to settle the match and take the Reds up to third in the Championship and within four points of the top two.
The Rams defence backed off as Lolley gained possession wide on the right and the winger made the most of the relative freedom at an eerily quiet Pride Park, striding forward and finding the far corner with a measured shot that deceived keeper Ben Hamer.
With Wayne Rooney crowded out in midfield and unable to exert any influence, Derby barely threatened to get back on terms, let alone go on to earn a sixth successive victory.
Forest could have added to their tally, with substitute Tiago Silva hitting the post from 20 yards and Lewis Grabban wastefully shooting wide.
But Martin intervened, meaning the Rams move level on points with Cardiff in the sixth and final play-off place.
Despite the gut-wrenching blow the Reds stay in fourth, seven points clear of Derby and in a strong position prior to the rest of the afternoon action, having been consistently around the play-off places since September.
The point, welcome as it is for Derby, could still well prove not to be enough. Phillip Cocu's side have an incredibly tricky run-in, with four of the top five still to play in their remaining five matches.
Further home games against third-placed Brentford and leaders Leeds United are to come as they look to reach the play-off for the fifth time in seven seasons.
Away from home they will play second-placed West Bromwich Albion and Cardiff City, who are sixth, before travelling to Birmingham City on the final day of the campaign.
Wrecking Wayne's world
Rooney's contribution since his January arrival has rightly been well documented, the England record goalscorer scoring five goals and helping the Rams win nine out of 15 league games prior to this draw.
Forest cottoned on to the 34-year-old's influence, always ensuring he was tracked and denied space in deep areas.
Rooney was unable to instigate attacks, while Forest's holding midfielders Samba Sow and Ben Watson also condensed the defensive space and prevented Duane Holmes, Jason Knight and - crucially - teenager Louie Sibley from making an impact.
Forest were able to get numbers back and rely on the solid defensive shape which has served them so well this season and rarely looked troubled after going ahead.
Both sides have often looked at their best this season when counter-attacking and both were set up to give maximum chance of making the most of any broken play.
Derby went with Martin up front, preferring the big striker's physical qualities and impressive hold-up play over the pace and irritation factor provided by the tireless Waghorn.
Martin had his moments, notably cleverly winning a header and finding Sibley, who skewed an effort wide in the first half.
But they did not manage to muster an effort on target before the break and it was Forest's mobility that shone through, the hosts struggling to deal with the running and movement of Lolley and Nuno da Costa, and Grabban's nous as a lone striker.
Forest created by far the better chances after Lolley's opener. Silva hit the post with a glorious curling effort and Grabban should have added to his tally of 19 goals but blasted one effort wide and was then off target with a wonderful chance from 12 yards.
After Waghorn correctly saw red for a horrible challenge on Ryan Yates, sub Alex Mighten could have wrapped up the points, and the iss proved vital as Martin reacted ahead of several Reds defenders to level the game in the 96th minute.
Derby manager Phillip Cocu:
"We knew it would be a tough game and from the moment we conceded the goal it was going to be much harder against one of the best-organised teams in the league.
"We conceded an easy goal, and we had a poor start, we hesitated and we were slow which changed after we conceded which I'm a little disappointed about.
"But in the end we got an important goal and mentally we are in a good place and we kept pushing. Now having this one point we keep a positive feeling and we are still in a good position to fight for a play-off spot."
Nottingham Forest assistant coach Bruno Baltazar:
"It's very frustrating, we had a plan which we stuck to until the 96th or 97th minute. It's not the first time this season and we need to work on this, the concentration and to focus until the last minute of the game.
"We had chances to score the second goal and at this time of the season, we can't miss so many specific chances. And then we are playing against 10 men, it's unacceptable that we lost these two points at this stage of the game. We need to work on this really quickly.
"In spite of the feeling it's a point from Derby who had five wins in a row but we had the game under control and the chances to kill the game but we didn't manage to do it."
- 3ForsythSubstituted forLoweat 81'minutes
- 41BirdSubstituted forWhittakerat 89'minutes
- 23HolmesSubstituted forJozefzoonat 66'minutes
- 40SibleyBooked at 80minsSubstituted forShinnieat 82'minutes
- 38KnightSubstituted forWaghornat 66'minutesBooked at 90mins
- 4WorrallBooked at 90mins
- 2RibeiroBooked at 90mins
- 21SowSubstituted forSilvaat 60'minutes
- 23LolleySubstituted forDiakhabyat 77'minutes
- 7GrabbanSubstituted forMightenat 90+1'minutes
- 9da Costa JóiaSubstituted forAmeobiat 59'minutesBooked at 90mins
- Darren England
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Derby County 1, Nottingham Forest 1.
Foul by Matthew Clarke (Derby County).
Alex Mighten (Nottingham Forest) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Goal! Derby County 1, Nottingham Forest 1. Chris Martin (Derby County) with an attempt from very close range to the high centre of the goal following a set piece situation.
Attempt blocked. George Evans (Derby County) right footed shot from the left side of the six yard box is blocked.
Joe Worrall (Nottingham Forest) is shown the yellow card.
Morgan Whittaker (Derby County) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Joe Worrall (Nottingham Forest).
Martyn Waghorn (Derby County) is shown the red card.
Foul by Martyn Waghorn (Derby County).
Ryan Yates (Nottingham Forest) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Yuri Ribeiro (Nottingham Forest) is shown the yellow card.
Substitution, Nottingham Forest. Alex Mighten replaces Lewis Grabban.
Sammy Ameobi (Nottingham Forest) is shown the yellow card.
Foul by Martyn Waghorn (Derby County).
Sammy Ameobi (Nottingham Forest) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Substitution, Derby County. Morgan Whittaker replaces Max Bird.
Matthew Clarke (Derby County) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Lewis Grabban (Nottingham Forest).