Darren Bent nets late leveller for Derby against Sheffield Wednesday
Sheffield Wednesday's hopes of moving closer to the play-offs were dashed as substitute Darren Bent netted a late equaliser to earn Derby a 1-1 draw from pulsating clash at the iPro Stadium.
A superb Barry Bannan strike put Wednesday ahead in the second half but Bent scored with his first touch eight minutes from time to celebrate only his second league goal of the season.
Derby had already secured their place in the Sky Bet Championship play-offs but it was a significant day for Will Hughes, who made his first start since injuring a knee on the opening day of the season in place of George Thorne who was ill.
Wednesday still had work to do to guarantee a top-six finish and they came close to falling behind in the fifth minute when Craig Bryson's persistence got the ball to Chris Martin but his low shot from 18 yards was held by Keiren Westwood.
As the Wednesday fans sang "we're on our way back," Kieran Lee made a strong run at Derby's defence and almost set up Gary Hooper in the 10th minute before Jacob Butterfield forced Westwood into another save.
Hughes made a crucial tackle to halt Hooper on the edge of the box but the midfielder was booked in the 19th minute when he barged over Fernando Forestieri out on the left touchline.
Wednesday were having a good spell and they went close in the 21st minute when Bannan's deflected shot was saved by Scott Carson and Jason Shackell beat Hooper to the rebound.
In an open game, Derby had the next chance when Bryson finished a classy passing move with a 20-yard shot that Westwood tipped over in the 29th minute.
There was a three-minute delay after a clash of heads between Marcus Olsson and Forestieri but both were able to continue and when play resumed, Butterfield's delightful pass found Johnny Russell in the area but he lost his footing.
An entertaining half ended with Tom Ince curling a 25-yard free-kick just over and the second started with Carson clawing behind a Forestieri shot in the 49th minute.
It was a great save and Westwood matched it twice in the space of two minutes by turning behind a Bryson strike in the 55th minute before he denied Russell with his legs.
But Bannan produced an unstoppable effort in the 68th minute when he beat Carson from 20 yards with a shot that went in off the underside of the bar after a clever back-heel by Hooper.
Forestieri clipped the top of the bar with a free-kick but Derby equalised in the 82nd minute when Russell crossed for Bent to head in at the back post a minute after coming on.
Derby could have won it through another substitute, Nick Blackman, but he failed to convert at the back post with Wednesday looking in vain for offside and the game ended with Daniel Pudil becoming the ninth booking in a game that was competitive but never dirty.