A BRILLIANT late leveller denied Rovers a victory which would have moved them up to seventh and within one point off the play-off places.
Gary Bowyer’s side went in front in the 47th minute when, for the second match running at Ewood Park, Jordan Rhodes set up strike partner Rudy Gestede to head home.
But Derby got the goal their spirited fightback thoroughly deserved six minutes from time when super-sub Patrick Bamford curled in from 20 yards.
The result meant Rovers slipped to ninth going into Tuesday’s trip to basement boys Barnsley – although they are a point closer to sixth-placed Reading.
The fourth-placed Rams, who boast the best away record in the Championship, played the better football in an even, hard-fought first half.
But it was Rovers, who came into the game having lost just one of their last eight home matches, who created the better chances.
The best of which fell in the 11th minute when Ben Marshall stood a free kick up to the back post where Gestede rose magnificently.
His powerful header was arrowing toward the top corner until Lee Grant stretched out a fingertip to turn the ball over the bar.
It was the first and last serious save either goalkeeper had to make in the opening period.
But Grant should have been tested by Ben Marshall in the 13th minute.
The in-form winger, however, sent his 20-yard free kick harmlessly over the bar.
Marshall’s afternoon ended not long after.
To the concern of Rovers boss Bowyer and the home faithful Marshall had to be stretchered off after he hurt himself when fouling Jeff Hendrick, who lasted 14 minutes before also coming off injured.
Hendrick was replaced by Will Hughes and the highly rated 18-year-old midfielder was straight into the thick of the action.
But for all of the Rams’ neat approach play they never once tested the fit-again Paul Robinson as Jamie Ward, Hendrick and – on two occasions – Chris Martin blazed high or wide from distance.
At the other end Jason Lowe flicked an inswinging Tom Cairney marginally past the post before Marshall’s replacement Lee Williamson saw a goal-bound attempt deflected wide by Richard Keogh’s brave block.
But there was nothing Keogh could do to prevent Rovers from opening the scoring two minutes after the restart.
Matt Kilgallon – in for injured skipper Scott Dann, who has been linked with a move to Norwich City – won the ball before playing it through to the fully-fit Rhodes.
Rovers’ top-scorer – now recovered from a niggling foot injury – raced past Derby captain Keogh before flashing over a left-footed cross which the onrushing Gestede turned into the empty net.
The home team’s tails were up.
But the visitors responded strongly to going behind and after Hughes just failed to get a connection to an inviting Simon Dawkins cross, Chris Forsyth burst into the box and fired over with just Robinson to beat.
Robinson then breathed a huge sigh of relief when Hughes – given too much room in the area – scooped an inventive effort on to the bar.
But just when Rovers thought they had weathered the storm, substitute Bamford equalised.
Martin fed the on-loan Chelsea striker and he made no mistake from 20 yards with a superbly measured left-footed shot into the bottom corner.
Bamford – who came off the bench to earn the Rams victory over Brighton & Hove Albion one week earlier – then went close with his right foot after he beat Tommy Spurr.
But only after Rovers sub Todd Kane dragged wide when he could have easily gone down in the box for a big penalty appeal.
Rovers: Robinson, Henley, Hanley, Kilgallon, Spurr, Taylor, Lowe, Cairney, Marshall (Williamson 24), Gestede (Kane 83), Rhodes. Subs: Eastwood, Dunn, Olsson, Morris, Mahoney.
Goal: Gestede 47.
Derby: Grant, Wisdom, Buxton, Keogh, Forsyth, Eustace (Sammon 72) Bryson, Hendrick (Hughes 35), Dawkins, Ward (Bamford 64), Martin. Subs: Legzdins, Russell, Whitbread, Keane.
Booked: Bryson, Ward.
Goal: Bamford 84.
Referee: Tony Harrington.
Attendance: 13,796 (1,120 away).