Derby 0 Middlesbrough 1
Middlesbrough's Robbie Mustoe scored the only goal and pushed Derby closer to the Nationwide League.
He grabbed the winner after 13 minutes.
Derby huffed and puffed in an effort to get back in the game but lacked the class or the clout to turn things around.
Middlesbrough made the breakthrough after a moment of hesitancy from England Under-21 defender Chris Riggott. He lost possession to Mustoe, who took full advantage to sweep the ball home with a fine volley.
Derby were playing with the kind of fear that goes with being near the foot of the table. John Gregory was continually frustrated as passes went astray and his side showed little penetration or movement.
But they almost drew level in the 40th minute when Rob Lee smashed in a volley but keeper Mark Crossley reacted instinctively to parry it clear.
Middlesbrough hit back and a poor clearance from Oakes fell to the feet of Franck Queudrue. He was unable to find the power or the direction in his low shot to make the keeper pay.
John Gregory decided it was time for desperate measures at half-time and brought off his main strikers Fabrizio Ravanelli and Branko Strupar.
Malcolm Christie, who has been sidelined with a hamstring injury, and Giorgi Kinkladze were called up. Morris moved up to partner Christie in a new front-line partnership, with Kinkladze occupying the vacant slot in midfield.
Derby were beginning to win a bit more possession but Ugo Ehiogu and Southgate were both looking comfortable at the back for Middlesbrough.
Middlesbrough were content to sit back and try and hit Derby on the counter-attack. The policy almost paid off in the 66th minute when Jonathan Greening got clear down the left and delivered a good ball into the area, only for Luciano Zavango to make a timely clearance.
Derby were beginning to find openings and Paul Boertien found space to get on the end of Barton's cross but his header drifted wide.