Derby took a big step towards safety as they ended a seven-game winless run with a 2-0 victory over Luton at Pride Park.
A first-half goal from Lee Gregory and a Graeme Shinnie penalty after the break eased relegation worries although Luton had chances to have taken something from the game.
Elijah Adebayo had three good chances in the first half to at least draw Luton level, with Derby goalkeeper David Marshall also making a fine save to deny Glen Rea.
The Luton captain fouled Tom Lawrence to give Shinnie the chance to extend Derby’s lead but the home side ended the game with injury worries to strikers Gregory and Martyn Waghorn, who both suffered hamstring problems.
Derby had started with energy and purpose which was rewarded with a goal in the seventh minute.
Luton’s defence was undone by a ball in from the right which Waghorn turned back across for Gregory to get the final touch.
Derby were moving the ball around confidently but Luton had a chance to reply when Jordan Clark’s cross was met by Adebayo who directed his header wide.
The visitors had an even better chance in the 23rd minute when Derby were caught on the break and Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall set up Adebayo from eight yards but he fired against the legs of Marshall.
It was a let-off for Derby who again needed Marshall to keep them ahead when he made an acrobatic save diving to his left to turn behind a Rea header in the 32nd minute and from the corner, Adebayo headed over.
The momentum was now with Luton who should have been level and Derby lost Waghorn before the break with a hamstring strain.
Luton had come back strongly but the start of the second half mirrored the first with Derby striking early to extend their lead.
Lawrence was tripped by Rea in the 49th minute and Shinnie beat Simon Sluga with a well-taken penalty even though the goalkeeper went the right way.
Lawrence almost made it three before Colin Kazim-Richards forced Sluga into a smart save at his near post.
Derby lost Gregory with another hamstring injury before Nathan Byrne and Dewsbury-Hall tangled on the floor, with the Luton man appearing to push the Rams defender in the face but referee Andy Woolmer judged a yellow card for both players sufficient punishment.
Luton still looked capable of getting back in the game but they could not find a finish when it mattered and Derby pocketed a much-needed three points, although the game ended with a confrontation at the final whistle which saw Kazim-Richards booked.
Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
Get the best features, fun and footballing frolics straight to your inbox every week.
Thank you for signing up to Four Four Two. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.