Nottingham Forest 1 Derby County 3
The City Ground fans were silenced as Nigel Clough returned to haunt his former club again, as the Rams cruised to a comfortable success that left Forest fighting to avoid being sucked back into the bottom three.
Billy Davies' side have now failed to win in six consecutive matches, with even the return of Paul Anderson and Robert Earnshaw from injury unable to lift their performance levels to a point where Derby were ever seriously threatened.
Within five minutes former Forest player Kris Commons turned the jeers of derision aimed at him into delirious cheers from the visiting fans, as a trademark free-kick delivery from him catalysed the game's opening goal.
The forward bent a high looping ball into the box from the left and, with the Forest defence failing to properly clear, Lewin Nyatanga - a summer transfer target for the Reds - prodded the loose ball low into the corner of the net from close range.
Forest were struggling to have the same early impact as they had in the previous clash, when they had taken a two-goal lead in the FA Cup, before the Rams' comeback earned them a 3-2 success.
With Derby happy to probe on the counter-attack, Forest were struggling to break the visitors down, although Earnshaw did spurn one decent opportunity after breaking the offside trap to latch on to Nathan Tyson's flick-on, only to see his flicked shot over the head of the advancing keeper drop high and wide.
Commons, meanwhile, was the game's most dangerous player, and would have added a second if not for a vital, lunging challenge from Ian Breckin, as he attempted to latch onto a teasing ball across the face of the box from James McEveley.
Forest almost profited from a quick break themselves however as Lewis McGugan slotted an incisive pass through the centre to send Earnshaw angling into the box again, with the striker this time rifling a rising effort well over.
Any hopes of a Forest revival were foiled within two minutes of the second half however, as Derby profited from another set-piece.
This time it was Robbie Savage who bent in a free-kick from the left side, arrowing the ball towards the edge of the six-yard box, where Hulse rose to flick an accurate, unstoppable shot inside the far post.
Derby should have had a third when Hulse broke clear of the Forest defence, but saw his weak shot saved by Smith.
But, in the 66th minute, they did finally get the goal their dominance deserved, from the penalty spot, after James Perch had shoved Hulse in the back as he attempted to connect with a Paul Connolly cross - with Steve Davies sinking the Reds with a precise finish from the spot.
Davies could have made it four, as he planted a header against the bar at the other end, with Joe Heath doing well to clear the danger from the rebound.
Derby completed the final ten minutes with ten men after McEveley limped off with a shoulder injury, with the visitors having used all their subs - but, even despite a late Earnshaw header that reduced the deficit, it was never going to influence the result.