Paul Jewell’s wait for a first victory as Derby manager ended in dramatic style against his former club at Hillsborough.
Goalkeeper Lewis Price produced two superb penalty saves to help Jewell’s beleaguered side progress to the FA Cup fourth round at the expense of Sheffield Wednesday.
After Kenny Miller had cancelled out Steve Watson’s opener this third-round replay was settled on penalties.
And Price was the hero as he first saved from Glenn Whelan and then Kenny Lunt to give Jewell his first win since succeeding Billy Davies in November. The result was made all the more credible by the fact the former Wigan and Wednesday boss was unable to call upon all five of his January signings.
A knee injury sidelined Danny Mills and Robbie Savage, Hossam Ghaly, Laurent Robert and Emanuel Villa were all ineligible.
The Rams, rooted to the foot of the Barclays Premier League, nonetheless started brightly and could have gone ahead inside the opening two minutes.
Gary Teale’s short corner allowed Stephen Pearson to cross from the left flank and Claude Davis cushioned a downward header into the path of Lewin Nyatanga, but the Wales international could only volley over from 12 yards out.
Wednesday goalkeeper Lee Grant was then required to make a trio of outstanding saves. He first kept out a well-struck Miller drive from an acute angle before denying Craig Fagan and Pearson in the same attack.
Grant’s heroics proved all the more telling as the home side took the lead after nine minutes with their first attack of the game.
Jermaine Johnson was afforded too much time and space on the right wing and his cross was steered past Price by the outstretched Watson from just inside the penalty area.
A neat exchange of passes between former Ram Marcus Tudgay and Wade Small 10 minutes later allowed the latter a decent sight of goal, but the diminutive midfielder blazed well over from 15 yards.
Teale cleverly sprang the offside trap shortly after but dragged his shot across Grant and across the face of goal as Derby battled to regain a foothold in the tie.
At the other end, the lively Johnson was causing Derby’s defence no end of problems, cutting in from the right before curling an effort into the side-netting from the edge of the penalty area.
Miller curled over from 20 yards out after good link up play with Pearson while Tommy Spurr had a deflected shot well saved by Price minutes later.
Three minutes before the interval, Jewell hauled off the ineffective Giles Barnes and introduced Eddie Lewis and the former Wednesday manager will have been far from impressed by the youngster’s reaction as he stormed down the tunnel.
Within two minutes of the restart the visitors, who had been so wasteful in attack in the opening 45 minutes, hauled themselves level courtesy of a fine finish from Miller. Captain Andy Todd picked out Pearson and his weighted pass allowed Miller to side-foot the ball into Grant’s left-hand corner from the edge of the area.
Miller’s leveller galvanised Derby and Dean Leacock headed a teasing Lewis corner agonisingly over after 51 minutes.
Watson then made way for Lunt as boss Brian Laws looked to add some much-needed impetus back into his side.
Striker Leon Clarke, who has spent the majority of the season out on loan at Southend, was sent on by Laws with 18 minutes remaining before Pearson and Spurr were both booked following an ugly confrontation as tempers began to fray.
The sides continued to cancel each other and Deon Burton, another former Ram, came off the bench with nine minutes of normal time remaining.
With a minute left Marc Edworthy hesitated on the edge of the penalty and Clarke seized on his weak header to pick out the unmarked Burton. The Jamaica international took a touch before unleashing a soaring drive which Price somehow managed to tip over.
Miller headed Lewis’ near-post cross over deep into stoppage-time as the tie went into extra-time.
Bizarrely, referee Foy was forced to retire injured after damaging his abductor muscle and fourth official Graham Laws stepped in to deputise.
Clarke went close twice in extra-time but after the sides had cancelled each other out for 180 minutes it seemed inevitable the tie would be settled on penalties.
Price saved from Glenn Whelan and Lunt while Miller, Lewis and Robert Earnshaw put Derby 3-1 up as Tudgay notched for Wednesday.
Burton made it 3-2 and it was left to Fagan to slot home the decisive spot-kick and set up a fourth-round home tie against Preston.