Crewe goalkeeper Clayton Ince single-handedly kept Derby at bay and piled on the relegation fears for George Burley's team following the goalless draw at Pride Park.
The Trinidad and Tobago keeper was superb in a one-sided game that saw Derby have 23 efforts at goal but could not find a way past him.
He made five outstanding saves in the first half and his inspirational display continued after the break when he again frustrated the home side who desperately needed a victory.
But the closest they came to a goal was two minutes from the end when substitute Izale McLeod stole in on the Crewe right, but his drive came back off the underside of the bar.
That summed up Derby's night and they are now firmly rooted in the relegation zone and could find themselves further adrift after the weekend when they do not have a game.
Crewe are still not out of the woods and have now failed to win in six league games but this would have been far worse but for Ince.
Derby peppered shots at him from all angles but a lack of a proven finisher has been their problem all season and it showed again tonight.
Most of Derby's attempts were from around the edge of the area and the close range threat to Ince came from his own players with Billy Jones almost putting through his own net in the first half.
Ince also made a smart save when the ball took a deflection off Kenny Lunt and his heroics continued in the second half.
But Derby goalkeeper Lee Grant also had to show his agility when he dived to his left to tip away a Craig Hignett header in the 64th minute that could have stolen it for Crewe.
That would have been cruel on Derby but unless Burley can find a genuine threat inside the opposition penalty area, they face a real struggle to haul themselves to safety.