Doncaster Rovers were aiming to reach for the Sky in tonight’s televised game but they lost out to promotion-chasing Derby County.
Pre-match boss Paul Dickov declared he was up for the fight as his side aimed to take a step towards maintaining their Championship status.
“Never have I asked them to go and do anything for me,” Dickov said.
“But this week I’ve asked them to have my drive, my enthusiasm and my belief. I’m sure we’ll get that.”
Derby had aims on the other end of the table, but manager Steve McClaren believes they must win their four remaining games to have any chance of snatching second place from Burnley.
The game opened at an electric pace with both sides keen to deny the other room and each determined to attack quickly.
A calamatous moment for Derby almost gifted Rovers the lead inside four minutes.
Misunderstanding between keeper Lee Grant and Richard Keogh over a backpass saw the ball trickling towards an empty net with Grant just getting back in time to clear off the line.
Derby had their first effort on goal on the quarter hour when a deflected header from Chris Martin forced Sam Johnstone to tip over the bar.
Rovers looked increasingly keen to absorb pressure from Derby and attack on the break, resulting in somewhat of a congested midfield.
But it was Rovers who continued to have the better of the chances.
Grant produced a stunning one handed save to keep the scores level as the games passed into its second quarter.
Gabriel Tamas sent a fine cross over from the right with Brown rising superbly to head on goal and forcing Grant to tip over the bar.
The same trio of players were involved again moments later, Brown again producing a fine header and drawing another good save on his line from Grant.
Chances were few and far between as the half wore on but the same pace was maintained with each side doing enough to restrict the other.
That was until Derby took the lead on the stroke of half-time.
George Thorne found the ball at his feet in acres of space 25 yards out and unleashed a powerful low drive which was out of Johnstone’s reach as it flew into the bottom corner.
It was somewhat of a harsh ending to a positive first half for Rovers.
Andre Wisdom flashed a shot across goal after a brilliant run from right back as Derby threatened early in the second half.
A brilliant through ball from the back from Jake Buxton sent Craig Bryson through but his drilled effort towards the near post was tipped wide well by Johnstone.
Rovers broke through Cotterill who scuffed a shot from 20 yards.
Rovers went close to equalising just after the hour mark. Tamas rose superbly to meet a well-weighted Cotterill free kick but headed just wide of the far post.
Derby increasingly looked to contain Rovers, making a pair of changes which saw their midfield packed and their attacks coming more and more on the counter.
Dickov threw on former Derby forward Theo Robinson in place of the disappointing Billy Sharp.
Grant produced an excellent save at point blank range after charging out of his goal when Robinson was sent one-on-one with a fine chipped pass from fellow substitute Mark Duffy.
Derby doubled their advantage 11 minutes from time.
A brilliant cross from the right from Jamie Ward dropped inside the six yard area where Chris Martin pounced to turn the ball home.
The goal was a hammerblow to Rovers and finished off their challenge for the night.
There was more bad news for Dickov’s men when Brown was withdrawn injured close to full time.
Ward almost put the icing on the cake for Derby with an audacious chip from 20 yards which Johnstone just managed to get enough on to tip over the bar.
But the Rams had already done enough to keep their faint automatic promotion hopes alive and leave Rovers still on the hunt for precious survival points.
Rovers made one change, as expected, with Aston Villa loan full back Enda Stevens replacing James Husband, who suffered a hamstring injury in the defeat at Ipswich last weekend. Richie Wellens and Lucas Neill both failed to return to fitness in time. Derby boss Steve McClaren named the same starting XI from the 3-1 win over Huddersfield last time out. The only change to McClaren’s matchday squad saw Simon Dawkins replace Lee Naylor on the bench.
Rovers: Johnstone, Tamas, Quinn, Meite, Stevens, Coppinger, Keegan, Furman, Cotterill, Brown, Sharp.
Subs: Maxted, McCullough, McCombe, De Val, Ferguson, Duffy, Robinson.
Derby: Grant, Wisdom, Keogh, Buxton, Forsyth, Bryson, Thorne, Hughes, Bamford, Martin, Russell.
Subs: Legzdins, Hendrick, Ward, Eustace, Sammon, Whitbread, Dawkins.
Referee: Simon Hooper (Wiltshire)