As “the bubbles burst”, “the fairytale’s over” and other such clichés were being foolishly whispered around the John Smiths, the teams were announced, and saw David Wagner ring the changes in a refreshed side following their midweek defeat.
Fans favourite Hefele was handed his second start replacing Skipper Hudson, Whitehead would take the captaincy and midfield spot of the outgoing Mooy. Palmer would be preferred to Payne from the start.
Town looked lively in the opening exchanges, their response to recent performances and result was clear from the get go. Confident and positive on the ball, the Terriers had a shoot on sight policy, with Kasey Palmer fizzing an effort just wide and VLP seeing his strike raise over the bar.
Both sides were battling furiously in an intense affair, notably the energy and tenacity of Kasey Palmer was too much for Johnson, who would be caught laboring on the ball too often for the Rams. It would seem as though ‘reactive pressure’ was back.
Derby gradually found their feet and would begin to see more of the ball; Will Hughes would watch his curling effort drift just inches wide of the far post after a neat one-two with Matej Vydra on the edge of the Town box.
Shortly after Hughes would return the favour, clipping a neat ball over the Town backline for the on running Vydra, but his attempted volley di little to worry Danny Ward.
Vydra still reeling for his earlier miss, wouldn’t have to wait long for his second chance, the attacking Cyrus Christie was afforded too much space on the right all Vydra had to do was make a telling contact, luckily for Town it would be the same outcome.
As the half-time whistle approached Hefele’s driven pass would find Wells, who was able to turn and attack the Derby defence, Town would break at speed and in numbers, the ball eventually finding its way to Tommy Smith, who like his colleagues before him, would shoot and see his effort miss the target.
Both teams were going toe-to-toe in an entertaining, yet goalless first 45 minutes. As the second half began and the heavens opened Town were working hard without the ball and looking dangerous with it. The Terriers identity was back.
The fans too had heard the rallying call from head coach David Wagner, all side of the John Smith’s uniting as one to support their team.
Despite Town’s attacking threat and intent, it would be Ward who was called into action first. Christie once again turning provider as his precise through ball reached Tom Ince whose poked attempt at goal was expertly saved by the Town number 1.
The Terriers responded and would get their opportunity to score soon after, Lowe and Kachunga with some neat interplay with the former finding Wells inside the area, whose low left-footed shot forced Carson into a fine save at his near post.
As the ball pin balled around the 18-yard box, Town would continue to threaten, Palmer would see his shot blocked and, Lowe his go wide.
Town were beginning to force the issue, this time it would be the turn of Wells to go close, as he put his curling effort narrowly wide of the far post.
As the game entered the dying stages each Derby player would look to run down the clock, as each player seemingly took their turn to request the physio.
As Derby continued to indulge in gamesmanship, Town continued to search for the winner, Town full-back Tommy Smith, now captain following the departure of Whitehead would blaze his left-footed strike high and wide after some good football from Kachunga and Payne.
As Derby made their final change, assuming a point would accompany them on the travels home. Town had other ideas and quickly shifted the ball from right to left finding Lowe, who first time found Bunn.
Bunn who following his performance on Wednesday could have started, ran at the Rams Skipper Keogh, twisting and turning until he found half a yard and delivered an inch perfect cross for Kachunga to nod home and blow the roof of the John Smiths.
The celebrations that followed would see David Wagner watch the remaining seconds from the stands.
There isn’t a feeling much sweeter than winning in the final minute.
Ooh to be a…