THE Riverside Stadium's lowest ever league game crowd was subjected to some late drama as another double from Lukas Jutkiewicz failed to pinch Middlesbrough all three points.
In front of just 13,377 - 335 down on the previous low set also against Derby County in March last year - Boro were unable to deliver the result they craved on the back of a defeat to Leicester City.
At times manager Tony Mowbray cut a frustrated figure as fans grew in disappointment with an inability to seriously test Derby goalkeeper Frank Fielding.
Yet Middlesbrough should still have claimed their fourth home win from five matches in the Championship this season, having edged ahead with just eight minutes remaining.
After Theo Robinson had powered Derby ahead from the penalty spot after quarter of an hour, Middlesbrough hit back within minutes when Jutkiewicz pounced to grab his first of the night.
A largely uneventful night's football looked like ending there. Then the £1.5m buy headed Middlesbrough ahead in the closing stages to give the sparse Riverside crowd hope that they would claim another narrow win.
But a routine Derby break ended in a game of pinball in the Middlesbrough box and Paul Coutts was on hand three minutes before the end to level things up, but Mowbray insists it was offside.
Even then Robinson wasted a glorious chance to win it at one end while Seb Hines had penalty claims waved away at the other. A draw was perhaps the fair outcome, although there was a sense of what might have been for the men from Teesside.
Mowbray had tried to address the attacking deficiencies which were evident during the defeat to Leicester last weekend. Despite toying with the idea of bringing Scott McDonald in from the cold, the Aussie was not even on the bench.
McDonald's two-month exile following a disagreement with the coaching staff has been smoothed over this week, but he wasn't deemed match fit.
With Mustapha Carayol, Curtis Main, Ishmael Miller, Marvin Emnes and Adam Reach all missing through injury, the only alternative was to bring Luke Williams in.
He played more of a forward's role alongside Juktkiewicz, with Merouane Zemmama the man to make way from Saturday's starting line-up.
But Middlesbrough still failed to spark going forward, even if they did create a few decent opportunities before Jutkiewicz finished one off to level just moments after they gifted Derby the lead.
Derby had made little progress until Craig Bryson worked his way in to the penalty area. That he was able to do that was alarming, but then Grant Leadbitter and Andre Bikey charged over and combined to leave the midfielder on the floor.
Referee Michael Naylor pointed to the spot from where striker Robinson powerfully side-footed into Jason Steele's right corner.
Middlesbrough channelled their frustration in the right way. Less than two minutes later they pulled level.
When Williams' mobility ended with Naylor awarding a free-kick for a foul by Richard Keogh 25 yards out, Derby were just as angry - even more so after it was taken.
Leadbitter's dead ball should have been dealt with comfortably by goalkeeper Frank Fielding. Instead it was spilled in front of him and Jutkiewicz was on hand to turn over the line from close-range.
Middlesbrough should have grown as a force after that. Instead they were fortunate not to be behind again before half-time.
There had already been a few hesitancies in possession before Steele was called in to action. He made the best save of the half by rushing out and denying Robinson a second after the striker had worked his in behind the Middlesbrough defence.
The occasional gaps were a concern for Mowbray at the interval. He also had the problem of trying to make his team more adventurous.
With 25 minutes remaining he introduced Zemmama and Ledesma, the two most attack minded players on the bench, for Kevin Thomson and Josh McEachran.
After that failed to have the desired effect, Faris Haroun was ready to be introduced when Zemmama, struggling with an injury, sent over the teasing centre which led to the winner - or so it seemed.
Jutkiewicz climbed above his marker to guide in to Fielding's top left corner with a cushioned header.
But just when it looked as if Middlesbrough would claim three points, Derby pushed forward and a failure to deal with a ball into the box ended with Coutts driving over the line to leave Teesside frustrated.
Goals: Robinson pen (15, 0-1); Jutkiewicz (18, 1-1); Jutkiewicz (82, 2-1); Coutts (87, 2-2)
Bookings: Leadbitter (90, foul)
Referee: Michael Naylor (Wakefield) 5
MIDDLESBROUGH (4-4-2): Steele 6; Hoyte 6, Hines 5, Bikey 7, Friend 7; Bailey 5; Leadbitter 6, Thomson 5 (Zemmama 66, 6 (Haroun 82)); McEachran 5 (Ledesma 66, 5); Williams 5, JUTKIEWICZ 7. Subs (not used): McManus, Leutwiler (gk), Parnaby, Smallwood
DERBY COUNTY (4-4-2): Fielding 5; Brayford 6, Buxton 6, Keogh 5, Roberts 5 (O’Connor 87); Coutts 7, Hendrick 6 (Jacobs 82), BRYSON 7, Hughes 7; Robinson 7, Tyson 5 (Sammon 58, 5). Subs (not used): Legzdins, Gjokaj, Bennett, Freeman
MAN OF THE MATCH
LUKAS Jutkiewicz – his second double of the season failed to end in all three points for Boro