That left second-placed West Brom, who have a game in hand, six points adrift with Nottingham Forest in third a further two points off the pace.
Hughton said: "It's probably testament to where we are at this moment that we have a very disappointed and frustrated changing room in there.
"But the reality is the performance was a good performance and a performance that on most occasions will win us the game.
"It's another clean sheet and of course, it's a game we haven't lost at St James', so there are a lot of positives and certainly more positives at the moment than there are negatives."
A crowd of 47,505 left St James' having seen the Baggies take another sizeable bite into a lead which at one stage amounted to 10 points.
That Newcastle failed to beat Derby was down to heroic defending from the rugged Miles Addison in particular, poor finishing and a healthy slice of misfortune.
They might have been in front with just 11 minutes gone when Ryan Taylor smashed a free-kick against the crossbar with keeper Stephen Bywater beaten.
However, the keeper did come to the rescue eight minutes later when he won his one-on-one battle with the same man.
Steve Harper had to make an important 25th-minute save from DJ Campbell in what proved to be a rare opportunity for the visitors, but for all their possession, the Magpies simply could not find a way past Bywater after the break.
Steven Taylor headed straight at the keeper when he might have done better, and Bywater earned his slice of good luck with three minutes remaining when he somehow managed to turn substitute Nile Ranger's volley on to the underside of the crossbar and saw it bounce down on to the line.
Hughton said: "It's about both ends. We have managed to keep another clean sheet, which is again very pleasing, but of course, we didn't put one of our good chances away - and we did have good chances."
Rams boss Nigel Clough was delighted with the result and his side's performance, although mystified by the boos which greeted inspirational skipper Robbie Savage.
He said: "For some reason - I don't understand it - he gets booed at every single ground we come to. I have never quite figured that out.
"I can understand that at ex-clubs - and he's had a few of them - but I can't understand sometimes this reputation that goes before him.
"I don't quite get it because I think football supporters should recognise sometimes what an honest and wholehearted player he is."