Sunderland attracted the biggest crowd of the season to the Stadium of Light but were unable to give their supporters a much-needed victory to keep in touch with the league leaders in the Championship.
And but for the brilliance of goalkeeper Mart Poom the unbeaten home record of the Black Cats would have been in even greater danger.
The Estonian international kept his side in the hunt in the first half with a string of impressive saves and in the 74th minute produced a magnificent stop to deny the impressive Marco Reich from scoring the winner for the visitors.
The Rams adapted much better to the blustery conditions and took total control of the first half hour and but for the alertness of Poom would have established a comfortable half-time lead.
Poom's heroics against his former club started in the seventh minute when he pushed a downward header from Reich behind for the first of six corners in the opening 15 minutes.
Poom again denied Reich and then saved well from Gregorz Rasiak's header and another goalbound effort from Reich was deflected behind before the home side mounted their first serious attack.
Claims that Steve Caldwell's header had been charged behind with a helping hand were turned down and the defender had another shot blocked as the Black Cats finally came into the game, despite losing striker Marcus Stewart in the 33rd minute with a thigh injury.
Derby's cause was not helped by a hamstring injury that prevented Spanish midfielder Inigo Idiakez from turning out for the second half and the home side gradually got to grips with the task in hand.
Reich cleared off the line from Stephen Wright after Dean Whitehead's shot had been turned behind for a corner and the introduction of Liam Lawrence in the 61st minute gave Sunderland much needed width and pace.
But it was left to Poom to have the final say with tremendous saves from Reich and Tommy Smith, on his return to the Stadium of Light.