Norwich City edged a step closer to automatic promotion as Kieran Dowell scored the only goal of the game in a 1-0 win away at Derby County.
The result maintained the Canaries' 17-point gap over third placed Brentford, winners themselves away at Preston North End, with just 18 points available for the chasing pack.
Having won 7-0 at home to Huddersfield Town on Tuesday night, Daniel Farke named an unchanged side for the game at Pride Park.
The Canaries went into the game knowing that because Swansea City, in fourth place, had won the early kick-off at Millwall any plans of being promoted today had been put on hold. However, that didn’t halt the momentum of the team, unbeaten in 12, as Kenny McLean sent an early effort over crossbar before Todd Cantwell warmed the gloves of Scottish keeper David Marshall with an effort from outside the box.
Dowell was then given a sight of a goal after 11 minutes, when Cantwell was fouled on the edge of the box by Graeme Shinnie, but his free kick went into the side netting.
That proved to be just a warning of what was to come though as, after 21 minutes, Dowell picked up a wayward pass from Craig Forsyth and ran towards the box only to be upended by the Derby County defensive midfielder. This free kick was a bit more central than the previous one and Dowell managed to curl an unstoppable effort over the wall and into the top corner of the net.
Derby rarely troubled Norwich in the first half, but skipper Grant Hanley was in the right place when they did to block an effort from Colin Kazim Richards and head away another dangerous ball into the box.
At the other end Dowell, Cantwell and Dimitris Giannoulis all went close to extending the Canaries' advantage as the visitors went into the break on top and on course for another three points.
However, Derby started the second half brightly with Shinnie playing a ball over the top of the defence for Kazim-Richards to test Tim Krul for the first time and moments later, Taylor Mengi, on loan from Manchester United, curled an effort towards goal that Krul produced a top class save from.
That forced Daniel Farke into a double change as he brought on Przemyslaw Placheta and Marco Stiepermann for Emi Buendia and Dowell.
The Derby pressure continued though as with 17 minutes to go former Canary Patrick Roberts slalomed his way into the City penalty area before Krul smothered his shooting opportunity on the edge of the six-yard area.
Substitute Louis Sibley then dragged a shot wide from the edge of the box.
However, Norwich hit back as the game approached the 80-minute mark as Teemu Pukki got in behind the home defence, only to be denied by a good tackle from Wisdom, before Cantwell volleyed an effort over from distance.
And having regained control of the proceedings, Norwich managed to see out the remaining minutes without too much worry although they were thankful to a wayward shot from Shinnie after Kazim-Richards had robbed Krul of possession outside of his area.
Derby County: Marshall (GK); MacDonald (Ebosele, 83’), Wisdom, Mengi, Forsyth; Bird, Shinnie (C); Jozwiak (Sibley 68’), Roberts, Lawrence (Watson, 83’); Kazim-Richards.
Subs not used: Roos (GK), Buchanan, Ebosele, Baningime, Cresswell, Knight, Shonibare.
Bookings: Shinnie (12’), Bird (15’), Forsyth (20’), Roberts (67’)
Norwich City: Krul (GK); Aarons, Hanley (C), Omobamidele, Giannoulis; Skipp, McLean; Buendía (Placheta, 61’), Dowell (Stiepermann, 61’), Cantwell (Tettey, 88’); Pukki (Hugill, 85’).
Subs not used: Nyland (GK), Vrancic, Sorensen, Hernandez, Mumba.
Goals: Dowell (21’)
Venue: Pride Park
Referee: Michael Salisbury