Full-time: Derby County begin new year with 3-1 win against Middlesbrough
DERBY County began 2013 with a 3-1 victory over high-flying Middlesbrough at Pride Park Stadium.
Goals from Michael Jacobs and Jeff Hendrick gave the Rams a two-goal lead at half-time, before Conor Sammon added a third after the break.
Lukas Jutkiewicz netted a late consolation for injury-hit Boro.
Kieron Freeman was handed his first senior start for Derby at left-back as Gareth Roberts was ruled out with a calf problem.
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Mark O'Brien replaced James O'Connor at centre-back after shaking off a groin strain, while Sammon and Jacobs were recalled at the expense of Theo Robinson and Nathan Tyson.
Derby started off at a high tempo, while Boro attempted to hit the home side on the break.
There were few chances in a lively opening, Jacobs firing wide from distance in the 11th minute.
The Rams opened the scoring just before the 20-minute mark, after Paul Coutts had drawn a foul from Scott McDonald.
Ben Davies whipped in the free kick from wide on the right and Jacobs connected sweetly with a half-volley from 12 yards out that flew low past keeper Jason Steele.
Jeff Hendrick was off target with a speculative effort following a driving run from midfield as Derby looked to add to their lead.
Boro went close to an equaliser in the 32nd minute.
Jutkiewicz span past O'Brien and his low shot was blocked into the path of full-back Stuart Parnaby, who blasted his first-time effort over the bar.
The visitors lost former England defender Jonathan Woodgate to injury, so Nicky Bailey had to drop into an already makeshift back line.
And Derby doubled their advantage three minutes before the break.
A clearance dropped to Hendrick outside the box to the right of goal and he chested the ball down before hitting a superb half-volley with the outside of his right foot, which curved away from Steele and into the top corner of the net.
Davies had gone close with a free kick that dipped just over and he went he closer in the 45th minute from an almost identical position, his fine effort smacking against the joint of post and crossbar.
The Rams were denied a third goal less than three minutes after the restart.
Coutts' defence-splitting pass released Sammon but his shot was blocked by Steele and his follow-up header brilliantly cleared off the line by Bailey.
But Sammon was not to be denied and he made it 3-0 after 65 minutes.
Neat work from Will Hughes in the area set up Jacobs, whose low effort was parried by Steele before Sammon gleefully smashed home the rebound.
Middlesbrough might have pulled one back in the 76th minute when Adam Reach's cross from the left found substitute Ishmael Miller but his shot was pushed away by Adam Legzdins.
Coutts flashed an effort just wide from 20 yards late on, just after 19-year-old defender Michael Hoganson had been brought on for his first-team debut.
Boro did grab a consolation in the second minute of added time, when Miller's left-wing cross was converted by Jutkiewicz six yards out - but it could not spoil Derby's day.
GOALS: Jacobs (19) 1-0; Hendrick (42) 2-0; Sammon (65) 3-0; Jutkiewicz (90+2) 3-1.
DERBY COUNTY: Legzdins, Brayford, Keogh, O'Brien, Freeman, Coutts, Hughes, Hendrick, Davies, Jacobs (Tyson, 78), Sammon (Hoganson, 87). Other subs: Fielding (gk), O'Connor, Gjokaj, Doyle, Robinson.
MIDDLESBROUGH: Steele, Parnaby, R Williams, Woodgate (Thomson, 37), Halliday, Bailey, Leadbitter (Miller, 65), Smallwood, McDonald (L Williams, 46), Reach, Jutkiewicz. Other subs: Leutwiler (gk), Zemmama, Burgess, Weldon.
REFEREE: D Whitestone (Northamptonshire).
BOOKINGS: Middlesbrough - Parnaby (45) foul on Jacobs; Leadbitter (63) ungentlemanly conduct; Jutkiewicz (80) foul on Hughes. Derby - Brayford (63) ungentlemanly conduct.