Vale suffered late heartbreak after a quick-fire one-two from Derby County meant the visitors came away from Vale Park with all three points, despite a battling performance from the Valiants.
Funso Ojo’s first goal for the club looked to have done the job for Vale, however, goals less than two minutes apart in the dying moments of normal time from David McGoldrick and Nathaniel Mendez-Laing secured the win for Derby.
Upon his return to the starting line-up, Ojo netted the opener to send Vale Park into a frenzy 11 minutes after the interval.
The Belgian midfielder was on hand to sweep home his first goal for Vale when the ball fell to him after Danny Butterworth had done brilliantly well to force a low save from Joe Wildsmith.
However, with 87 minutes on the clock, McGoldrick fired the Rams level from close range after substitute Lewis Dobbin crossed low from the left-hand side into the striker’s path.
Derby completed their comeback less than two minutes later through Mendez-Laing, who volleyed home at the front post after young Dobbin once again proved provider.
Darrell Clarke made two changes from Vale’s last outing against Peterborough United, with goalscorer, Ojo, returning to the side for his first start since September, and Dennis Politic also claiming a place in the starting line-up.
It was the visitors who created the first true opening of the match after 18 minutes, but after meeting Conor Hourihane’s cross, McGoldrick saw his effort from close range saved strongly by Jack Stevens.
Derby’s next chance should have been the opener, however, after Mendez-Laing sent a brilliant low cross to the back post, Tom Barkhuizen fired his strike wide when he looked certain to score.
The Valiants pressed hard for an opener towards the interval with Dennis Politic the first player to test Wildsmith with a low drive, and the keeper did well to hold on to the strike.
Minutes later, Wildsmith was called into action twice, firstly doing well to save a powerful Danny Butterworth effort from inside the area.
The keeper then sharply saved from the resulting corner, beating away a stinging strike from our number 33 once again.
Stevens was not to be outdone by his counterpart, and he produced a fantastic save early in the second period to deny a powerful McGoldrick low-driven shot.
At the other end, Nathan Smith was inches away from doubling Vale’s lead in the 64th minute when his header flew just past the post after he latched onto Ben Garrity’s flick-on.
Port Vale | Stevens, Cass (80’ Forrester), Jones, Smith, Worrall, Garrity, Benning, Ojo, Massey, Butterworth (74’ Pett), Politic (63’ Odubeko)
Subs not used | Stone, Donnelly, Proctor, Holden
Derby County | Wildsmith, Forsyth, Hourihane (68’ Dobbin), Barkhuizen (68’ Collins), Bird, McGoldrick (90+3’ Rooney), Mendez-Laing, Smith, Roberts (80’ Springett), Davies, Knight
Subs not used | Thompson, Stearman, Loach
Attendance | 10,307 (3,821 away)