Reds 1 (Cywka 62)
Derby 2 (Martin 8, 49)
Barnsley left it too late to cause Derby any trouble as the Rams recorded an eighth win in nine matches but Danny Wilson's side could have easily claimed a point but there was no such luck.
The Reds needed some luck to get their league campaign underway but there was to be no such luck for Derby's first shot of the match. Chris Martin picked up a rebounded ball in the box and his tame effort deflected up and over the despairing arm of Steele for the opener on eight minutes.
Russell cut in from the right on 14 minutes but dragged his effort wide of Steele's left-hand post.
Jim O'Brien did well to take on his man before crossing left-footed for Dawson to turn and shoot but a Derby boot got in the way for a corner on 21 minutes. A minute later the Irishman had a shot from distance that drifted wide after striking low from the edge of the box.
Another corner was forced after O'Grady got the better of Keane only for Bryson to recover and block the striker's shot.
Russell got in behind the Reds and beyond Steele but just as the wide-man was set to tap home an easy second, Peter Ramage appeared from nowhere to clear the danger on the half-hour mark.
With little over six minutes on the watch until half time and the game hitting a lull, Jacob Mellis turned inside from the right and had a great chance to test Grant but his effort went the wrong side of the post.
It simply should have been two for the Rams just as the Fourth Official's board indicated one minute of stoppage time. Russell teased Kennedy down the Barnsley left and his cross was begging to be turned home by Bryson but Steele had other ideas as he expertly denied the midfielder.
Less than four minutes into the second half Derby doubled their lead and it was all thanks to the blistering pace and sheer quality of Andre Wisdom down the right. The Liverpool loanee burst down the right and delivered for Martin to nod home his and his side's second with a free header at the far stick.
The Reds made a double change on 56 minutes with Tomasz Cywka and Marcus Pedersen replacing Kelvin Etuhu and Paddy McCourt.
With 62 minutes on the watch substitute Tomasz Cywka hauled the Reds back into it with a fine solo goal. The Pole picked up possession well inside his own half and ghosted past two players before hammering into the bottom corner from 20 yards.
It was just the lift Oakwell needed and the Reds were now pressing their opponents in search of an equaliser.
Grant did well to smother a vicious O'Brien shot on 81 minutes after Cywka had teed up his fellow midfielder just inside the box.
The Reds' final change saw O'Brien replaced by Scotland with 30 seconds of normal time remaining and four minutes stoppage time was shown by the Fourth Official.
A glorious opportunity presented itself to O'Grady from 15 yards as Wiseman's cross dropped at his feet but he scooped over the bar.
Steele, McCourt (Pedersen 56), Cranie, Ramage, Wiseman, Kennedy, Etuhu (Cywka 56), O'Brien (Scotland 90), Mellis, Dawson, O'Grady.
Subs: Dibble, Nyatanga, Hassell, Perkins.
Derby County: Grant, Forsyth, Bryson (Bennett 82), Martin (Sammon 76), Russell, Eustace, Hughes, Buxton (C), Dawkins (Ward 73), Wisdom, Keane.
Subs: Freeman, Legzdins, Whitbread, Cisse.
Attendance: 16338 (5819 Derby supporters)
Man of the match sponsored by Napoleon's: Tomasz Cywka