Meanwhile, on a three-match unbeaten streak of their own, Reading will feel that they are in a position to push for maximum points after moving clear of the relegation battle.
After a slow start to the season, there was considerable doubt over whether Philip Cocu would see out the campaign at Derby, despite the board's willingness to hand him a four-year contract.
However, either side of the enforced break, the Rams have reaped the benefits from sticking with the Dutchman at a time when Wayne Rooney's arrival in January has also undoubtedly aided the club's push up the table.
Since the turn of the year, 24 points have been recorded from 13 matches, the latest contribution a result of a comeback victory away at Millwall last weekend.
Although still only in 12th position, Derby are now just three points adrift of the playoffs, a scenario once deemed unlikely when wins were few and far between throughout late summer and autumn.
Louie Sibley emerged as the star of the show through his hat-trick in East London, but the 18-year-old is one of several youngsters who are assisting the experienced names in helping Derby mount a late playoff push.
From Reading's perspective, they will be content with having established some distance between themselves and the bottom three, a gap which now stands at eight points.
However, Mark Bowen would have been left disappointed after witnessing his team only record a 1-1 draw at home to Stoke City on their return to action.
As well as the result ending their two-match winning streak, the Royals are increasingly unlikely to emerge as an outside shout for the playoffs now that they are eight points behind Preston.
Nevertheless, after his much-criticised appointment, Bowen will continue to push his side over the coming weeks in a bid to find some stability ahead of an improved effort next season.
Derby County Championship form: DDLWWW
Reading Championship form: WLLWWD
Bowen will be forced into at least one change with Lucas Joao having suffered an issue with his hamstring against the Potters.
Tom Huddlestone remains out of contention for Derby after failing to agree a short-term contract extension.
Cocu will likely keep changes to a minimum, with Jason Knight best placed to come into the team on the right-hand side of midfield.
Derby County possible starting lineup:
Hamer; Bogle, Clarke, Wisdom, Forsyth; Rooney, Bird; Knight, Sibley, Lawrence; Waghorn
Reading possible starting lineup:
Cabral; Hunter, Moore, Morrison, Richards; Swift, Rinomhota; Meite, Olise, Ejaria; Puscas
We say: Derby County 2-1 Reading
While Derby are the favourites for this encounter, we expect Reading to push them all the way with less pressure on the shoulders of the visitors. However, the Rams know what is at stake, and that could give them an extra edge during the closing stages.