Ten-man Sheffield Wednesday suffered a third successive away defeat, losing 3-2 to Derby County in a thrilling Championship tussle at the iPro Stadium.
The Owls, who have now gone seven matches without a win, twice led courtesy of a stunning free-kick by Lewis McGugan and Will Keane’s second goal since arriving on loan from Manchester United until the end of the season.
But they were undone by second-half goals from Jake Buxton (2) and a Darren Bent penalty. Keiren Westwood was sent off for upending Tom Ince in the box for Derby’s spot-kick.
Victory moved the Rams to the top of the Championship, stretching their unbeaten run against Wednesday to 14 matches in all competitions.
Atdhe Nuhiu was entrusted with the responsibility of leading the attack and Joe Mattock was drafted on to the bench.
The visitors lined up in a 4-5-1 formation looking to stifle and frustrate Derby’s flair players, with Will Keane stationed on the left flank and Jacques Maghoma on the opposite wing. Lewis McGugan was asked to play in a more advanced role following Bus’s late withdrawal.
Sam Hutchinson comes in for Jose Semedo, who has yet to recover from a toe infection/ankle problem which has troubled him in recent weeks.
Fresh from serving a two-match suspension for collecting 10 cautions, Chris Maguire is included on the substitutes bench.
Derby, seeking their first victory in four outings, have handed starts to George Thorne and SImon Hawkins, with Jamie Ward and Omar Mascarell dropping out.
There was very little to choose between the two sides in the early stages. Tom Ince, the son of former England and Manchester United midfielder Paul, was denied a sight a goal following an immaculate block by Sam Hutchinson near the 18-yard box as Derby struggled to break down Wednesday.
Out of nothing, the Owls opened the scoring in the 20th minute as Lewis McGugan curled a delightful free kick past Lee Grant after he had been brought down by Will Hughes.
Their joy was nearly short-lived as Derby came close to levelling things up six minutes later but Tom Ince struck the post from an acute angle following patient build up play.
George Thorne, making his first start of the season, unleashed a fierce effort from distance which flew narrowly wide on the half hour mark as the Rams upped the ante.
Thorne then produced a fine tackle to prevent Nuhiu from testing Grant’s reflexes after good interplay between the big forward and Keane.
It took an excellent tackle from Kamil Zayatte to stop Simon Dawkins’ fierce drive from giving Westwood something to think about as Derby kept on asking questions of Wednesday’s backline.
Republic of Ireland international Westwood produced an outstanding stop in the 39th minute to tip over Ince’s 25-yard free kick.
As expected, Derby dominated possession but found Wednesday a hard nut to crack. Will Keane’s low shot was comfortably saved by Westwood on the stroke of half-time.
The Rams deservedly equalised two minutes after the re-start when Jake Buxton glanced in Thorne’s corner. It is the third year on the spin Buxton has scored against the Owls at the iPro Stadium.
Hutchinson was cautioned for a late tackle on Ince, meaning he has accrued five yellow cards and been sent off for two bookable offences in 10 appearances this season.
Things started to open up after Buxton’s header, with Derby frantically scrambling clear McGugan’s dangerous delivery before Jeff Hendrick blazed off target when well-placed.
But Keane fired Wednesday back into the lead in the 55th minute after the Rams sloppily gave possession away near the half-way line. The forward, who shrugged off a knee problem he picked up versus Brighton and Hove Albion, rifled a right foot shot past former Owls shot-stopper Grant.
Just after the hour mark, Derby made a double change, throwing on Jesse Lingard and Craig Bryson at the expense of Throne and Dawkins.
Buxton nodded in his and the Rams’ second mid-way through the half as Wednesday failed to deal with Bryson’s corner.
In a thrilling second period, Hutchinson drilled an effort from distance inches off target following a quick counter attack.
Lingard, who scored four goals on his professional debut against the Owls while on loan at Birmingham City in September 2013, dribbled forward at pace before releasing Ince, who bent a shot just wide.
With 13 minutes remaining, Derby completed the turnaround through ex-England international Darren Bent. Westwood was given his marching orders for hauling down Ince and, although there was a lengthy delay as Chris Kirkland replaced Hutchinson, Bent kept a cool head to slot in from 12 yards.
Derby: Grant; Christie, Keogh, Buxton, Forsyth; Thorne, Hendrick, Hughes; Ince, Dawkins, Bent. Substitutes: Roos, Bryson, Ward, Lingard, Thomas, Shotton, Mascarell.
Wednesday: Westwood; Palmer, Lees, Zayatte, Helan; Lee, McGugan, Hutchinson, Maghoma; Keane, Nuhiu. Substitutes: Kirkland, Maguire, Vermijl, Dielna, Melo, May.
Referee: Darren Bond.