Norwich City 3, Derby County 2
Simeon Jackson scored a dramatic winner five minutes into stoppage time to complete his second hat-trick in three home matches and keep Norwich City on course for Premier League football in another incredible finish at Carrow Road.
The Canadian striker may have known little about his decisive goal as a goalline clearance by Alberto Bueno struck him and flew into the net, but he was in the right place yet again - and had twice given City the lead with superb goals earlier in the match.
Victory kept City in second place in the table, one point ahead of Cardiff with two matches remaining and their promotion fate still in their own hands.
Jackson took his tally to eight goals in six games and 12 for the season, his goals crowning a fine individual display.
He gave City the lead in the final minute of the first half, heading in Marc Tierney's cross.
Steve Davies levelled after 54 minutes before Jackson restored City's advantage on the hour with a superb, floated effort from just outside the area.
Alberto Bueno equalised three minutes later when he beat John Ruddy from long range and City looked set to have to settle for a draw when goalkeeper Brad Jones produced two excellent saves to deny substitutes Rob Edwards and Henri Lansbury.
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But the scene was set for another amazing finish and Jackson was the man to deliver after Russell Martin's shot was blocked on the line, just over five minutes into stoppage time.
Manager Paul Lambert fielded the same eleven that started the 5-1 derby victory over Ipswich with just one change on the bench.
Striker Chris Martin was included in the squad of 18 for the first time after missing 12 games since the 2-1 home victory over Reading on February 12. He was named as a substitute in place of Sam Vokes, recalled by Wolves from his loan spell at the end of last week.
Derby showed two changes to the side that started the 4-2 home defeat by Burnley with Gareth Roberts and Alberto Bueno recalled, with Russell Anderson relegated to the bench and Jamie Ward suspended after his red card against the Clarets.
City won a corner inside 15 seconds thanks to Jackson's perseverance, but Fox's kick failed to get beyond the near post with Savage volleying clear.
There was a problem for Derby in only the third minute with Barker and Ayala clashing heads on halfway as they both went for the same header.
Ayala seemed to have come off worse and was still being treated on the ground after Barker got to his feet.
Jackson produced the first attempt on goal in the seventh minute when he got the better of Barker to an awkward bounce from Whitbread's forward ball, but the striker's left-foot shot was high and wide.
Robinson brought Ruddy into action with Derby's first effort, from the edge of the area, but the City 'keeper was right behind it.
After a neat passing move on the edge of the area, Hoolahan had a shot blocked by Savage and Holt played a one-two off a defender but did not connect cleanly with his shot.
City kept up the assault and Crofts met Tierney's cross with a diving header that Jones did well to save, but Holt was adjudged offside as he went for the rebound, tumbling over the 'keeper in the process.
Surman's pass set up Jackson for a shot from a tight angle that was pushed over by Jones as the Canaries continued to dominate.
Jackson looked lively and hassled Ayala into poking the ball dangerously across his own goal.
Jackson got his head to a cross from the left by Tierney but his effort was safely gathered by Jones.
City were repeatedly frustrated by the offside flag and one decision against Tierney had Lambert protesting vehemently to the fourth official.
A foul by Bailey on Surman gave City a free-kick 10 yards outside the area, but Fox slammed his dead-ball kick into the wall.
There was anger in the home crowd as referee Haines waved on a clear handball by Savage, all the more so because Derby broke and forced a corner, but Whitbread was in the right place to head clear from Bueno's kick.
Fox brought Jones into action with a volley after Jackson had chested back a Hoolahan cross, but the 'keeper made a comfortable catch.
Pearson wasted a good opening he had created when he cut inside past Crofts but fired well wide.
Holt got in a glancing header from a cross by Crofts but that drifted wide.
Davies then created enough room to shoot at the other end but it was a tame effort that rolled straight to Ruddy.
The first yellow card of the afternoon went to Ayala six minutes before the break for holding Holt.
Davies fired another poor effort wide as Derby ventured into City territory again.
Just as it seemed a goalless first half was on the cards, Jackson struck to give City the lead with his sixth goal in six games. In the final minute of the half, Holt's throw-in dropped behind Brayford and found Tierney on the left and the full-back's cross reached the near post, where Jackson beat Roberts to the ball to plant a firm header past Jones for his 10th goal of the season.
• HALF-TIME: Norwich City 1, Derby County 0
Barker cut out a cross from Holt to concede a corner as City began the second period on the offensive, but Bailey was able to head clear from Surman's kick.
Fox conceded a corner at the other end by heading clear from Roberts'
cross. Bueno took an inswinging kick that eluded everyone in the six-yard box for Ward to hook clear.
Derby levelled almost out of the blue in the 54th minute, however, thanks to Davies.
Bueno swung in a cross, right-footed, from the left side and Davies got ahead of Tierney to score with a simple header.
City were angered when referee Haines allowed play to continue when they thought they had permission to make a substitition. With Edwards on the touchline and Whitbread making his way to the tunnel, the official instead let play restart and the Canaries conceded a free-kick just outside their own area.
Edwards finally replaced Whitbread and Bueno curled the dead-ball kick wide.
On the hour, however, City regained the lead with a superb goal from Jackson.
Holt played Surman's short pass back into the path of his fellow striker and Jackson, just outside the Derby area, curled a delightful first-time shot over Jones and into the net – a goal that was greeted with a tumultuous roar.
But within three minutes, the Rams were level again as Bueno, Derby's best performer, created enough space to strike a low left-foot shot to the left of Ruddy and just inside the post.
Jackson's persistence forced a corner and it was almost 3-2 to City as substitute Edwards met Surman's inswinging kick with a superb header that Jones somehow clawed away on the goalline, making a brilliant save.
Lansbury, who had replaced Fox in City's second change, curled a shot wide from the edge of the area, before Lambert made his final change, replacing Surman with Pacheco.
Lansbury almost restored City's lead when his low drive forced Jones to dive to his right to push the ball past the post.
At the other end, Brayford tested Ruddy with a long-range shot but the keeper was right behind it.
Savage, enjoying his role as the villain of the piece, was booked with a quarter of an hour left for blatantly grabbing Pacheco's shirt.
With 11 minutes left, Derby boss Nigel Clough replaced goalscorer Davies with Ball, his first change.
Referee Haines was not the most popular man at Carrow Road and one free-kick given against Tierney and another offside decision incensed the home crowd.
Jackson, looking for a hat-trick, was just unable to keep control as he chased a Ward through-ball and 'keeper Jones was able to collect.
Lansbury's foul on Barker in the Derby area produced an angry exchange between the two men as the minutes began to slip away for the Canaries.
Derby skipper Savage departed the scene two minutes from time, to be replaced by Hendrick.
A storming run by Russell Martin failed to deliver when he took the ball too far and then a misjudged header by Edwards handed Derby a corner, but they wasted it.
City swept on to the attack, urged on by the crowd as five minutes of stoppage time were announced, but there was a further delay as Derby replaced Roberts with Anderson.
Lansbury was booked for dissent and in City's last but one raid, Russell Martin's cross was plucked out of the air by Jones.
Jackson then had a shot deflected wide by Brayford to earn a corner, which led to an amazing winning goal.
The kick by Lansbury was flicked on by Hoolahan and reached Russell Martin on the far side of the area, the full-back drilling in a low shot that was blocked on the line but rebounded home off Jackson to spark more wild celebrations at Carrow Road.
• RESULT: Norwich City 3, Derby County 2
• Norwich City: Ruddy; Russell Martin, Ward, Whitbread (Edwards, 57), Tierney; Fox (Lansbury, 67); Crofts, Surman (Pacheco, 71); Hoolahan; Jackson, Holt. Subs: Rudd, Lappin, McNamee, Chris Martin.
• Derby County: Jones, Brayford, Barker, Ayala, Roberts (Anderson, 90); Savage; Bailey, Pearson; Bueno; Savage (Hendrick, 88); Robinson, Steve Davies (Ball, 79). Subs: Atkins, Addison, Doyle, Ben Davies.
• Referee: Andy Haines (Tyne & Wear)
• Attendance: 26,078
• Goals: Norwich: Jackson (45, 60, 90). Derby: Davies (54), Bueno (63).
• Bookings: Norwich: Lansbury (90), Jackson (90). Derby: Ayala (39), Savage (76), Pearson (90).