This performance and result reminded us of something that we all tend to forget from time to time, which is that football is utterly unpredictable: it eschews logic and long established laws of physics in its ability to delight and disappoint in equal measure.
If Biff did indeed one day show up and offer us a Sports Almanac containing each and every result for the next 50 years, sure, we'd take it in order to make a bucket load of money. But to do so would render each and every game utterly redundant from a supporter perspective. There'd simply be no point in watching if you knew the outcome. Imagine turning up knowing the score? To do so would be futile. To be surprised, delirious and utterly agog at events unfolding before your eyes is what the game is about. Last night was a sharp nudge in the ribs from football to remind us of this.
Regardless of the happy outcome, the game a was a right old belter: both teams attacking at a blistering pace and sniping at heels for the duration. After four minutes, Nelson Oliveira squirmed and and twisted on the edge of the box and got his shot away to see it nestle snugly into the corner of the net. Did that really happen? A goal? A real, actual goal? You bet your granny it did and the game had lift off. At first glance, it seemed like Scott Carson would be waking up feeling disappointed with himself but a slight deflection off Richard Keogh's nether regions made things difficult for him. The game was well and truly on.
For a period after this, the showdown resembled two boxers slugging it out in the ring - like Rocky and Clubber Lang taking it in turns to slug each other with all that they could muster. Jamie Ward came within a whisker of opening his account with a curling effort while at the other end, Jeff Hendrick clipped the cross bar. After around 30 minutes in, a pattern started to emerge from the chaos as Derby started to enjoy more possession but could only make it so far until a tackle or interception triggered the red jerseys on a merry dance upfield.
Centre backs Matt Mills and Jack Hobbs had to be at maximum concentration all evening to deal with the excellent hold up play of Chris Martin: there's a time to hold and a time to fold and both men did exactly the right thing at the right time. While one of them held him up, Henri Lansbury would invariably nip in and steal the ball.
Indeed, each and every player put in their finest performance of the season. We've been getting quietly excited over Daniel Pinillos for a while, daring to dream that we had found a long term reliable left back. We have. Eric Lichaj was his usual self, standing tall when one on one and all the while a willing runner down the right wing. Jamie Ward was trying things all evening - not everything came off but he was a right old Jamie Ward sized pain for the opposition. Ryan Mendes never stopped running and was simply outstanding. Jonny Williams buzzed around busily too after what can surely be the earliest booking ever for simulation.
There is something about Oliveria - a supremely talented guy but somehow clumsy and ponderous despite this. But his performance was a lesson in how to lead the line and occupy the entire Derby defence. He seemed energised all evening and maybe now he can start banging in the goals like we suspect he can. The number of times that Doris De Vries was called upon to make an actual was startlingly low.
But one man was heroic all evening. David Vaughan has been turning in impressively improving performances ever since the Bolton fixture and his wonder goal up at the Macron. Last night he was simply superb, winning tackle after tackle and getting the ball moving forward out to the wings. Reports that he stole his newspaper from the delivery lad this morning before he even got to the letterbox are unconfirmed at this early stage but otherwise, quite legitimate.
If Forest were going to take anything from the game, it felt crucial that they got to half time with the lead intact. This they did. Derby would surely change something for the second half and come out all guns blazing. This they did - to an extent. They certainly applied pressure but the pattern of the latter stages of the first half remained largely the same. Paul Clement's men would get so far until possession was lost and Mendes, Williams and Ward sprinted upfield to support Oliveira. On numerous occasions, Forest outnumbered Derby on the attack and with just a little more composure or better decision making at the crucial moment, would have doubled their lead. Make no mistake, this wasn't a 'sit back and defend' job, this was a controlled and very deliberate and effective game plan, the likes of which Dougie Freedman has executed in the past.
Surprisingly, the game was played in a good spirit too: plenty of crunching tackles but very little haranguing and surrounding of the referee, few of the personal skirmishes and vendettas playing out all over the park. The game was all the better for this although admittedly one of Tom Ince's legs had to be retrieved from deep within the Peter Taylor Stand after a 'tackle' from Oliveira.
It remains to be seen what this result will do for Dougie Freedman and the team's subsequent performances; all of that is for another day. Today is all about peeling ourselves down from the ceiling and delighting in the fact that this stupid old game of ours can still be a beautiful, life-affirming thing.