Cardiff City made it ten games unbeaten under Mick McCarthy and moved back into the Championship's top six by thumping Derby County in the Welsh capital.
Derby boss Wayne Rooney altered over half his starting XI making six changes to the side that secured a point in the 1-1 draw against Nottingham Forest on Friday evening. Only one of those changes was enforced. Goalkeeper David Marshall missed out on a South Wales reunion due to injury, with Kelle Roos replacing him.
Rooney handed a first start to Everton loanee Beni Beningime, who started along with fellow January signings George Edmundson and Teden Mengi, while Lee Gregory and Louie Sibley also earned recalls as Nathan Byrne, Max Bird, Jason Knight, Martyn Waghorn and Colin Kazim-Richards dropped out.
Bluebirds boss McCarthy made two changes to team that drew at Middlesbrough, with Harry Wilson and Josh Murphy dropping out with Sheyi Ojo and Leandro Bacuna coming into a side full of confidence.
Derby's lack of familiarity was evident in the early exchanges as they struggled to create many opportunities over the course of the evening. Cardiff continued the fine form they have been routinely showing since the appointment of McCarthy.
Story of the match
The first chance of the game came on the ten-minute mark when Will Vaulks sent a long throw into the goalmouth. George Edmundson managed to get his head on it, but cleared it only as far as Kieffer Moore who hit the volley on the edge of the six-yard box and his effort whistled over the crossbar.
Soon after, Derby found their first opportunities. Shinnie played a good ball down to Lee Gregory, who flicked the ball forward with an over-head kick towards the post. However, the bounce shot up high and in favour of Dillon Phillips who grabbed it just before Kamil Jozwiak could meet it.
Shinnie was involved again just moments later when he was set by Andre Wisdom and struck from 25-yards out towards the bottom corner, and Phillips pushed it round the post.
Danger for the Rams came after 17 minutes when Sheyi Ojo was played through and charged into the box. Matt Clarke slipped as he marked him but managed to head the ball away from the forward’s feet while on the ground.
Ojo found his footing again to get a weak shot that clipped the heel of Kelle Roos to go off-target. Wisdom made a half-clearance, but Joe Bennett kept the play alive, receiving the clearance to send a cross back in for Moore to head just wide.
The Bluebirds took the lead in the 23rd minute after they worked the ball quickly and efficiently down the pitch before Bennett slotted the ball through to Bacuna who was completely open down the left of the area. His first-time shot went across goal and tucked into the far corner.
Roos was called into action just five minutes later and pulled out a fine diving save to palm away Moore’s shot from 20 yards out after he controlled the ball down and created space.
There was a lengthy break in play with ten minutes of the half remaining as Bennett was stretched off the pitch and in the six minutes of added time, Cardiff came close again.
Roos made a close-range save at the near post to deny Moore, but the rebound fell to Bacuna who struck from inside the area. The effort went between the Rams’ stoppers legs, but his back heel tipped it off target.
Just minutes into the second half, the hosts doubled their lead. Vaulk’s delivery from a corner was met by Moore’s diving header and although Roos got a hand to the effort, the power of the shot saw it through to the back of the net.
Ten minutes into the half, their advantage grew to three. After winning the ball back inside Derby’s half, Ojo sent a pass along the edge of the area to pick out Bacuna, who swung his first-time effort past Roos.
Midway through the half, the Bluebirds had the ball in the back of the net again, however, Ojo was ruled offside before a quadruple change for the Rams.
Martyn Waghorn was one of those changes and came close from a free-kick which Phillips tipped over and Derby were unable to find a way back into the game.
Cardiff further extended their lead in added time when Joe Ralls won the ball back in Derby's half and fed to Vaulks who picked his shot and sent it past Roos.
Cardiff's night was only tainted as Joe Bennett was taken off on a stretcher with a serious-looking knee injury.
The victory for McCarthy's side, who have now picked up 24 points from 30 since he took charge, moves the Bluebirds back into the play-off berths, while Derby remain 18th after a meek display from a much-changed side.
The Welsh side will look to carry this form onto Saturday's game when they travel to Huddersfield Town.
The Rams will examine where it went wrong and hope to bounce back in a local derby against Coventry City at the weekend.
Cardiff City: Phillips, Bennett (Bagan, 35), Morrison (C), Flint, Vaulks, Bacuna, Moore (Colwill, 77), Nelson, Pack (Ralls, 87), Ojo (Williams, 87), Ng.
Substitutes: Smithies, Murphy, Wilson, Harris, Hoilett.
Derby County: Roos, Wisdom (C) (McDonald, 69), Shinnie (Watson 69), Edmundson, Jozwiak, Mengi, Clarke, Sibley (Waghorn, 69), Gregory, Buchanan, Baningime.
Substitutes: Idem, Forsyth, (Bird, 69) Byrne, Kazim-Richards, Knight.
Man of the match
Confidence is clearly sky high in the capital right now, and Vaulks is just one of many members of this squad whose performances have gone up a notch under the new boss, with his energy in the middle of the park a key component in City's recent success.
Some thought he could do with a rest, boy did he prove them wrong. Another massive performance from the midfielder. Broke everything up. Swung in the corner for Moore's goal and scored an absolute screamer.