Colin Kazim-Richards celebrated a new one-year contract with a stunning late equaliser to salvage a point in one of English football's oldest rivalries.
Derby were condemned to a record eighth match without a win in fixtures between the two clubs but the fizzing 84th-minute effort into the top corner from the Turkey international striker maintained momentum after James Garner's first career goal threatened to take the points back up the A52.
Teenage Manchester United midfielder Garner, on a second loan of the season after starting at Watford, provided Nottingham Forest with the game's momentum when he struck eight minutes before the interval.
Victory would have propelled them into the top half of the Championship and taken their 2021 points tally to 23 - no team has taken more - but in Wayne Rooney's Derby, who had won six of their previous eight fixtures, they faced another of the division's in-form sides.
'Two months ago, we would have been happy with a point, away from home, against our local rivals but the changing room sums up where we are at this moment.
'They're disappointed. We want to win as many games as possible,' said Forest manager Chris Hughton.
Forest took the lead despite Derby's monopoly on possession for the opening half hour when Yuri Ribeiro swung the ball back into the area from a cleared corner and Garner swivelled on Joe Worrall's knockdown to guide a left-footed shot beyond a groping David Marshall.
The Scotland international goalkeeper should have done better - 'a sloppy mistake,' was Rooney's assessment - but was clearly impaired.
He left the field with a back injury soon afterwards.
Kazim-Richards' spectacular seventh goal of the season - following a suspicion of handball - also came against the run of play.
'We hadn't picked up a point when we've gone behind for 15 games, so that's a positive,' Rooney said.
'We need to react better. You can concede the first goal but still go on and win.'
And they would have but for substitute Lee Gregory lifting over the top from close range in injury time.