Derby head coach Paul Warne described the 3-0 home win over Barnsley as “a boost for the dressing room.”
Barnsley came into the game unbeaten on the road this season but that run was ended by a James Collins brace and a Craig Forsyth goal.
The game was reasonably even up to the 35th minute when Jordan Williams pushed over Collins in the box and the striker got up to tuck away the penalty.
Derby rammed home that advantage in the second half when they twice caught Barnsley out with long free-kicks from goalkeeper Joe Wildsmith.
On both occasions, Forsyth got in behind Barnsley on the left when the ball was flicked on, firing low past Ben Killip in the 48th minute and then forcing the goalkeeper into an acrobatic save in the 63rd before Collins chested in the rebound.
Barnsley had a chance to get back in it but John McAtee fired wide after Devante Cole’s pass set him up in the 52nd minute.
Warne said: “I thought the first half was really tight, I didn’t think either team was really in the ascendancy and it felt like one of those games that was going to come down to small margins.
“Massive credit to the players, they were excellent today. It’s about the dressing room, the lads feel good about it.
“I’ve been saying all week I thought they were going to win, not from an arrogant point of view but I just felt it, I could see the lads in training taking the information on.
“It’s a boost for the dressing room obviously and the lads back themselves when they are at their best and today they were and we could have competed against anyone.”
Barnsley slipped to sixth in League One, now level on points with Derby.
Head coach Neill Collins said: “Up until the third goal, I didn’t think there was anything in the game.
“We were behind to the penalty at half-time which I thought was more than recoverable but the second and third goals, to lose goals to direct play and you’re 3-0 down.
“I thought there was nothing between the teams, there wasn’t really clear-cut chances for either team, it was a good tight game but then it quickly unfolded because we didn’t deal with direct play.
“We have dealt with that type of play and we’ve kept a lot of clean sheets but you’re coming up against a better calibre of opposition today and we just didn’t deal with it and that was the one aspect which was really frustrating.
“At times, had we shown a little more devilment and intensity it could have been there for us in the first 60 minutes but we didn’t.”