Darren Bent strikes as Derby deny FA Cup underdogs Hartlepool
Jacob Butterfield and Darren Bent spared Sky Bet Championship Derby an embarrassing exit as Hartlepool surrendered a lead to lose 2-1 in the FA Cup third round.
It appeared the League Two strugglers would gain a significant scalp when on-loan Jake Gray opened the scoring in the 61st minute, but Butterfield and Bent broke home hearts at Victoria Park.
The sides enjoy a link through Brian Clough, who cut his managerial teeth with Hartlepool in the north-east before leading Derby's charge to become English champions in 1972.
And Pools headed into the fixture targeting the kind of fairytale story their old boss specialised in, against opponents for whom the priority is a return to English football's top table.
The underdogs, refreshed following a three-week break having seen their festive schedule ruined by weather, were in the game throughout and took the lead through Gray's sublime finish.
Yet Derby's additional quality showed in the end as Butterfield netted a superb equaliser before Bent settled the tie five minutes from time.
The perceived gulf in class was evident in County boss Paul Clement's team selection as he made 10 alterations to the XI that lost 2-0 at Middlesbrough last week.
Clearly scenting an opportunity, Hartlepool began on the front foot and almost took an early lead when Michael Woods curled Rhys Oates' clever corner just over.
County finally showed their quality towards the end of the first half as B#2.5million debutant Nick Blackman's began to dominate.
The recent recruit from Reading almost opened the scoring on the stroke of half-time when being superbly denied from point-blank range by Carson.
Blackman crafted two more openings before the break as he saw a goal-bound effort headed over by Carroll and hit another strike just wide.
Having been thankful to hear the whistle amid the growing onslaught, Hartlepool were doubtless displeased to see Clement introduce tricky winger Johnny Russell as Derby moved to a 4-4-2.
Yet it was those remaining on the field causing the problems, with Bent nodding down for Abdoul Camara - whose rasping 25-yard half-volley rattled the woodwork.
That close call took on greater importance when Hartlepool scored in lovely fashion, Woods producing a fine run and centre for Gray to unfurl a clever scissor-kick finish.
The lead lasted a mere six minutes as substitute Butterfield, with his first touches, worked an opening and curled a pin-point 20-yard effort into the corner.
Lewis Hawkins drove narrowly over amid an impressive Hartlepool response, before Bent was denied by Carson's stunning one-handed stop at the other end.
But the goalkeeper could do little about the former Tottenham striker's next effort, Bent applying the crucial left-footed finish after Camara's cross had trickled to the back post.