MATCH REPORT: DERBY 2-2 CITYSTEVEN Whittaker's dramatic late equaliser secured a merited point for Norwich City as they drew 2-2 with Derby County at the iPro Stadium.
The defender volleyed home his first goal of the campaign at the end of a strong spell of pressure from the Canaries late in the game.
Chris Martin's penalty against his former team looked to have won it for Derby after Cameron Jerome had cancelled out Johnny Russell's opener.
It was an enticing game between two promotion hopefuls, but although the Rams will feel disappointed at losing their lead at the end they couldn't deny that City were value for a point.
Once again Neil Adams kept faith with the starting eleven that previously beat Wigan Athletic and Huddersfield Town, but there was a spot among the substitutes for Ryan Bennett, who had been missing since August with an ankle injury.
Canaries Academy graduate Martin - scorer of 12 Sky Bet Championship goals this season prior to kick-off - was named up front by Steve McClaren, who made three changes from the Rams' team that lost 3-1 to Chelsea in midweek.
Bradley Johnson, again playing on the left-side of City's midfield, nodded wide from Alex Tettey's cross for the first chance of the game after five minutes, with both sides getting players booked in an intense start.
Norwich were the better team on the whole early on and Derby didn't threaten until the 18th minute when Martin flicked a near-post header over from Omar Mascarell's corner.
The pace of Jordan Ibe pushed City back at time but on 32 minutes, Adams' men had a goal ruled out for offside.
Tettey's harmless looking shot found its way into the far corner, but Cameron Jerome, in an offside position, was adjudged to have been in Lee Grant's eyeline and therefore interfering with play.
Derby were buoyed and after John Ruddy grasped Craig Bryson's deflected effort, they edged in front two minutes before half-time just moments following a Johnson piledriver the flew narrowly over.
Martin held the ball up effectively for the Rams, advanced in the area and clipped a ball into Russell's path, who found himself with just Ruddy to beat - and he did just that.
HALF-TIME: Derby County 1-0 Norwich City
Will Hughes replaced Jeff Hendrick at half-time for Derby but City got back into the game six minutes into the second period through Jerome.
The hosts failed to clear their lines in their own area, and the ball fell to Howson, who picked out the unmarked frontman at the back post for his 10th league goal of the season.
However, just four minutes later Derby were back in front and it was City old boy Martin who came back to punish his former club after he was brought down by Cuellar in the box.
The Beccles-born striker stepped up confidently and sent Ruddy the wrong way to inflict a cruel blow on a Norwich side who had flown out of the blocks after the break.
Nathan Redmond came on for Tettey with half an hour still to play but Derby slowed the game to their own tempo, dropping and allowing Norwich to have their fair share of possession.
It was down to City players to make something happen, and Adams added an extra attacking dimension to his team by bringing on Wes Hoolahan and Lewis Grabban.
It was right-back Whittaker who came within a whisker of levelling however, firing a left-footed drive narrowly wide after being afforded too much space 20 yards from goal.
Olsson then stumbled in the box under the challenge of Richard Keogh, but he didn't fall and Paul Tierney turned away muted appeals for the penalty.
Steve McClaren was growing frustrated as Derby dropped deeper and deeper, and Norwich got their reward for persistance in the final minute of the game.
Redmond's corner dropped to Whittaker at the far-post, and the full-back showed excellent technique to steer the ball into the far corner and earn the Canaries a deserved share of the spoils.
FULL-TIME: Derby County 2-2 Norwich City
GOALS: Rams: Johnny Russell (44), Chris Martin (pen 55) - Canaries: Cameron Jerome (51), Steven Whittaker (90)
DERBY COUNTY: Grant; Christie, Keogh (c), Shotton, Forsyth; Mascarell, Hendrick (Hughes 45), Bryson (Dawkins 74); Ibe (Coutts 83), Russell, Martin. Subs not used: Roos (GK), L Naylor, Best, Calero.
NORWICH CITY: Ruddy; Whittaker, Martin (c), Cuellar, Olsson; Howson, O'Neil (Grabban 72), Tettey (Redmond 62), Johnson; Hooper (Hoolahan 70), Jerome. Subs not used: Rudd (GK), Turner, Lafferty, Bennett.
REFEREE: Paul Tierney