Two of Millwall’s goals came from the penalty spot after fouls committed by Richard Keogh and Jeff Hendrick.
That put a Millwall side that included David Forde, Alan Dunne — who won the second spot-kick — and Aidan O’Brien on course for three points that would have lifted them out of the drop zone but there was a late sting in the tail as Hendrick redeemed himself with a brilliant volley to earn his side a point.
As a result, Derby — despite a run of two wins in their last 12 games — will be in the play-offs as long as they avoid defeat at home to Reading next weekend.
Hendrick’s goal was his ninth of the season as he closed in on his target of reaching double figures for the season. He said: “I’m always delighted when I score, especially out there because of what it meant.
“In all honesty,” he added modesty of his volley, “it could have gone anywhere, but thankfully it has gone in.”
As for next weekend, Hendrick insisted Derby won’t play for a draw.
“Someone mentioned that we only need a point from the final game of the season, but we don’t want the point,” he said. “We want all three.”
While Derby can still dream of Premier League football next season, the outlook for Millwall is decidedly gloomier. They will be relegated tomorrow night if Rotherham beat Reading.
Derby’s late, late show was bad news for Brentford. The Bees remain agonisingly outside the play-off zone despite a 2-0 win at Reading. Alan Judge was their match-winner, scoring the first from close range before making the second.
Like Derby, Ipswich only need to avoid defeat on the final day of the campaign to seal a play-off spot after Daryl Murphy’s 25th league goal of the season helped the Tractor Boys to a 2-1 win over Nottingham Forest.
At the other end of the table, James McClean capped a miserable day for Wigan by getting sent off for a second yellow card in the 1-0 home defeat to Wolves, a result that all but ended any hopes of avoiding relegation.
Elsewhere, it was good weekend for the Irish at Cardiff as Eoin Doyle was twice successful from the spot while Joe Mason also netted in the 3-2 win over Blackpool.
“Eoin was banging on my door in the week saying he wanted to take any penalties,” Cardiff boss Russell Slade said.
“I’m delighted he took them in confident mood. I thought Eoin and Joe looked good today and that partnership with Joe is only going to continue to improve.”
Barring a mathematical miracle, Harry Arter’s Bournemouth will join Watford in the Premier League next season if they beat Bolton tonight.
In League One, Samir Carruthers was on the mark as MK Dons kept their hopes of automatic promotion to the Championship alive after a 3-2 win at Rochdale. Third-placed MK Dons sit one point behind Preston in second and finish their campaign at home to bottom side Yeovil.
In League Two, a speculative Michael Timlin effort lifted Southend into the final automatic promotion spot. Timlin’s effort earned a 1-0 win over Luton and Southend will go up if they beat Morecambe in their final game.
Graham Cummins was the only other Irish goalscorer in the division but his effort counted for nothing as Exeter lost 2-1 at Hartlepool.
In the Scottish Premiership, Kieran Sadlier was among the scorers as St Mirren boosted their slim chances of avoiding relegation with a 4-1 win over Kilmarnock.