Derby County 1 Manchester City 1
An own goal from Sun Jihai gave the home side the lead 27 seconds into the second half but City, who had wasted a string of chances before the break, levelled through Daniel Sturridge in the 63rd minute.
City would have won at a canter if Darius Vassell had put away at least one of the four gilt-edged opportunities that came his way but Derby showed far greater spirit and fight than in recent performances.
Their new owners, the Detroit-based General Sports and Entertainment company, would have been encouraged with what they saw on a cold night.
Certainly Derby manager Paul Jewell will have been pleased after Saturday's embarrassing FA Cup exit to Preston. But City will know that they must find someone who can finish if they are to have any chance of clinching fourth spot.
Vassell had a night he will want to forget as he squandered chance after chance, starting in the fourth minute when he shot tamely wide after a mis-hit back-pass by Claude Davis had sent him clear.
Vassell was again the culprit in the 15th minute when the outstanding Martin Petrov whipped in a glorious cross but the former England striker delayed his shot at the back post and Darren Moore was able to deny him.
But Derby also had their moments with Robert Earnshaw striking the foot of the post after Vassell had again hesitated when through on goal.
Those misses began to look costly when Derby went in front straight after the break with defender Jihai deflecting a Kenny Miller shot that was going wide into his own net.
But the threat of Petrov suggested City would create more chances and, in the 63rd minute, the Bulgarian sent in another pin-point delivery and this time Sturridge scored off a post.
Vassell completed a miserable night when he ballooned a Petrov cross over the bar from four yards out and that was the last clear opportunity for both sides although there was late drama when Derby conceded a free-kick 25 yards out in stoppage time.
The Brazilian dead ball expert Elano had the City fans behind the goal waiting with anticipation, but this time he failed to clear the defensive wall and Derby survived to take a point that will at least give them some heart for Saturday's relegation clash at Birmingham.