The star of the show was undoubtedly England Under-21 International forward Adam Johnson, who sent the Boro on their way to three points with a first-half penalty which was followed up with a goal of real quality after the break.
There was tension in the crowd at the start of the game with Middlesbrough desperate to end a dismal run and ease the pressure on under-fire manager Gareth Southgate.
Derby were eager to achieve their first away win of the season but they were put under pressure at the start from Middlesbrough's fast, direct play.
The Rams suffered two injury blows in the opening 20 minutes. Kris Commons went off after 11 minutes to be followed by Jay McEveley.
Middlesbrough piled on the agony for the visitors by taking the lead after 22 minutes when Shaun Barker brought down Johnson on the edge of the box.
Johnson picked himself up from the deck to give Stephen Bywater no chance with his spot-kick, netting his sixth league goal and seventh of the season.
Derby struggled to make an impact and there was no pressure on goalkeeper Brad Jones in the first half.
Derby would have to raise their game if they were to get any reward at the Riverside and Paul Dickov saw Bradley Jones dive at full stretch to save his shot.
Then came the highlight of the game as Johnson tricked his way past three opponents and then crashed a shot into the far corner of the net.
The goal brought the crowd to their feet and put the game beyond doubt, while providing some relief for Southgate, whose future was the subject of increasing speculation ahead of the match.