Tom Ince scored his first league goals for a year as Derby stayed joint top of the Sky Bet Championship with a convincing 4-1 victory over Bolton Wanderers at the iPro Stadium.
Ince celebrated his Derby debut with a superbly struck free-kick and another clinical finish and with midfielder Jeff Hendrick also scoring twice, the Rams were too good for Bolton who could only reply through substitute Filip Twardzik.
Derby drafted Ince straight into the team following his loan move from Hull and he almost set up a goal in the 11th minute with a low cross from the right that fizzed across the six-yard box.
But Bolton were getting plenty of possession and they gave Derby a scare in the 26th minute when a clever pass by Zach Clough played Liam Feeney in but Derby goalkeeper Lee Grant was quickly off his line to cut out the danger.
The visitors had worked hard to deny Derby space but in the 33rd minute, Omar Mascarell sent Hendrick running into the penalty area to set up Ince but his shot was blocked.
But Ince made his mark on the match in the 39th minute when he curled a superb free-kick from the right edge of the area into the top left corner of Andy Lonergan’s goal after Liam Trotter had bundled over Chris Martin.
Ince lobbed just wide from Mascarell’s pass but Derby scored again in the 45th minute when Will Hughes cut the ball inside from the right and Hendrick spun away from Josh Vela before firing low past Lonergan from 12 yards.
Bolton boss Neil Lennon made two changes at the start of the second half but his side fell further behind in the 47th minute.
Derby worked the ball in from the left and when Martin played in Hughes, the midfielder picked out the unmarked Ince who thundered a shot past Lonergan from 12 yards.
But one of those substitutions gave Bolton a glimmer of hope in the 51st minute when a free-kick from Barry Bannan was knocked down and Twardzik dived to head low past Grant’s right hand.
It was a reminder the game was not over although Derby almost restored their three-goal cushion when a quick exchange of passes ended with Jamie Ward driving in a low shot from the edge of the area that was only just pushed away by Lonergan.
But Derby threatened more goals and the fourth arrived in the 68th minute when a Mascarell free-kick was headed back by Jake Buxton and Hendrick was unmarked to head in from two yards.
Clough forced Grant into a diving save but Ince rattled a post in stoppage time as Derby warmed up for Tuesday night’s top-of-the-table clash at Bournemouth in perfect fashion.