Tom Ince gets the only goal as Derby sink Ipswich at Portman Road
Tom Ince followed up his midweek hat-trick with the only goal at Portman Road as Derby moved into an automatic Skybet Chamionship promotion spot with a 1-0 win over Ipswich.
Man-of-the-match Ince raced clear to shoot under Dean Gerken five minutes before half-time before the Rams resisted Ipswich pressure after the interval in a second half which largely saw both teams cancel each other out.
Ipswich's stuttering home form continued - they have won just once in front of their own fans since August - as Derby did enough to claim three precious points.
The first half was intriguing, rather than an exciting, with Freddie Sears having the first shot at goal after six minutes when he confidently strode inside from the left wing - but his effort from 25 yards was held by the diving Lee Grant.
Derby went even closer in the 12th minute when Ince's low cross was laid back to Bradley Johnson - but his curling effort from the edge of the area went just wide.
Ince was looking a threat and he teed up Chris Martin, whose goalbound shot was thwarted by a brilliant block by Tommy Smith before the winger then saw his 25-yard free-kick held by Dean Gerken.
The Ipswich keeper was equal to another long-range effort, this time from Jacob Butterfield in the 29th minute, before another low cross from Ince just missed the onrushing Johnny Russell.
Five minutes before half-time, Ince got the goal that his first half performance deserved after picking the ball up from a ricochet between Russell and Christophe Berra and drilling low beyond Gerken - the ball taking a slight ricochet off Town left-back Jonas Knudsen.
Ipswich almost responded in perfect fashion at the start of the second half when Sears' looped centre was headed just over by the backtracking Daryl Murphy.
The home side huffed and puffed in the second half but could not find a way past a mean-looking Derby defence.
When they did register a shot at goal, Jonathan Douglas' scuffed header was denied on the line by Jacob Butterfield.
Minutes later, Sears burst into the box but his powerful drive from an acute angle flew past the far post.
But Ipswich failed to create any more chances and it was Derby who almost added to their tally when a powerful 20-yard drive from Johnson was tipped around the post by Gerken.
The well-deserved away victory means Derby have lost just once in 17 matches as they further underlined their promotion credentials going into Christmas.