Burton Albion ended their long home winless run at the expense of near-neighbours Derby County to keep their Championship safety dream alive in memorable fashion.

With only victory at this late stage good enough, the Brewers were inspired from front to back, with Liam Boyce and Luke Murphy scoring either side of David Nugent's first-half equaliser.

Lucas Akins then finished from close range to give Albion breathing space after the break, before Stephen Bywater saved Matej Vydra's late penalty to round off a memorable afternoon.

It may yet prove too late, but Albion are now within five points of safety with three games to go - and a first home win since September 16 should be all the motivation they need to kick on at Sunderland next weekend.

Burton's injury problems were again at the sort of level which prevented them from naming a full matchday 18, with four changes to the starting XI seeing Kyle McFadzean, Ben Turner, Murphy and Joe Sbarra come in to a 4-1-4-1 shape.

That many changes perhaps played its part in the Brewers' sluggish start - although the play-off-chasing Rams showed no real quality themselves in a cagey opening 15 minutes.

Burton Albion 3 - 1 Derby County REACTION - Boyce, Murphy and Akins down abject Rams

Both defences were in charge, no risks were taken and the ball spent the majority of its time in the air.

But one moment sparked the half into life - and it came via Boyce's first home goal in an Albion shirt.

It owed much to an energised Hope Akpan, who forced a mistake out of Derby right-back Andre Wisdom.

Sbarra was able to deliver a cross to the back post, where Murphy produced a tidy first touch before driving possession back across goal, where the predatory Boyce lurked to convert from close range.

That setback fired some intensity into the legs of the Rams, who were quickly back on terms.

Burton submitted possession upfield to set off a Derby counter, and while the hosts got men back behind the ball, there was little they could do to deal with a pinpoint cross from Tom Lawrence that Nugent headed past Bywater.

Nigel Clough's side, though, looked a different team entirely from the one that so limply dealt with Hull City in midweek in a 5-0 loss.

There was an energy and an intent in their work off the ball that forced the Rams deep, with every Burton player implicit in that.

None more so than Murphy, who got his reward by nudging Albion back in front just before the break.

Again, the Brewers' intensity worked them into a good position, and the Leeds United loanee was able to burst into the box, step aside his marker and curl a delightful, left-footed strike past the despairing dive of Carson.

It was always going to be a question of Albion maintaining that same intensity after half-time, something they have struggled to do at times this season.

It was not on show at the start of the second half, with Derby setting up camp in the hosts' territory.

There was no way through a resilient, experienced Burton rearguard though.

And Burton made their local rivals pay.

Again, Albion's willingness to press their opponents for the ball proved the key.

Huddlestone dallied on the edge of his own box and Boyce nipped in to nick it.

Some nice interplay followed and saw Akpan with a shot at goal that Carson palmed into the path of Akins, who gladly finished off from six yards.

For the first time this season, the Brewers had scored three on home soil.

A bit of precious breathing space for the hosts - cue a cheer for every ball cleared, headed or grasped gratefully by Bywater.

Nugent spurned a great chance to reduce the arrears for Derby when Vydra got in behind and cut back for the former Leicester City man, charging onto it from 12 yards.

But he lifted his shot over.

And the icing on the cake came in the dying stages as Bywater dived to deny Vydra from the penalty spot, just when thoughts of a last-gasp comeback rose to the surface.

Days after confirming his retirement for the end of the season, Shaun Barker then received a brilliant ovation from all four stands as he came on in stoppage time for his first Brewers appearance of the season.

All in all, a memorable afternoon for those in yellow and black to lift Albion off the foot of the table and move them to within five points of safety.

There is still a lot of work to do, of course - but at least the fight continues for another week at least.