It was a far from convincing performance from Birmingham in truth, and they deservedly trailed 2-0 as the game ticked into injury time at the iPro Stadium. Derby boss Steve McClaren was already imagining a Sky Bet Championship table that would have seen Derby sitting two points clear at the top, had it not been for a dramatic and unlikely comeback from the Blues.
A Paul Caddis penalty and a scruffy header from Clayton Donaldson, both in injury time, rescued a point for Birmingham in a 2-2 draw, and many fans claim such a comeback would never have happened before Rowett rejuvenated the club's fortunes following his appointment back in October 2014.
Rowett oversaw an immediate return of points, losing just twice in his first 13 games. However, with behind-the-scenes turmoil still engulfing the club, and the threat of a points deduction hanging over them - for parent company Birmingham International Holdings Limited entering receivership - a recent run of form has seen five draws and four defeats from nine games since January.
But two quick-fire home wins over Brentford and Blackpool have got the Blues back on track and Saturday's late rescue mission is emblematic of Rowett's influence.
Rowett spoke to the Derby Telegraph after the dust had settled on Saturday's furious finale, and while he admitted his team looked dead and buried, he also hailed the renewed spirit among his players: "It looked to all intents and purposes that the game was over but I just felt there were little moments in the last 15 minutes when you could see there might be something for us," said Rowett. "Whether we deserved it or not is not really relevant. The fact is we've kept going and kept believing and trying to get something out of the game.
"As we all know, until the game is all over it's not over but I'm sure if you are a Derby fan or player you will be hugely disappointed you haven't won."