Both clubs have won four of their last six fixtures, a considerable improvement after spending much of the campaign occupying places in and around the relegation zone.
While Derby and Forest will still have concerns about an unforeseen period in League One, they now have every reason to believe that they should still be aiming high during the final months of the current campaign.
Forest sit 10 points clear of the bottom three, two points ahead of their next opponents, but there are also just 10 points separating the Reds and the playoffs.
With just 14 matches remaining, achieving a top-six spot is realistically out of the question, although that will not stop Hughton and his squad wanting to maintain their recent form.
As well as 13 points coming from their most recent six fixtures, collecting 26 points from 14 matches has gone somewhat under the radar, partly due to the presence of Rooney at Pride Park.
On the back of Derby's 2-0 win over Huddersfield Town in midweek, it has been well documented that the England legend has guided the Rams to 31 points from 18 games.
With Rotherham United still possessing a game in hand, Rooney will be wary of getting drawn into discussions regarding the future progression of his squad.
Nevertheless, both managers should be receiving plaudits in equal measure as they look to build some momentum ahead of a promotion bid next season.
While Forest have conceded just two goals in seven league matches, Derby ended a four-match wait for a clean sheet with the shutout against Huddersfield.
Derby County Championship form: WLWWLW
Nottingham Forest Championship form: WWDLWW
The short turnaround is likely to lead to Hughton making a number of changes to his Forest XI.
Having been versatile with his tactics in recent matches, Rooney may revert back to a 4-2-3-1 formation for this contest.
Derby County possible starting lineup:
Marshall; Byrne, Wisdom, Clarke, Buchanan; Bird, Shinnie; Waghorn, Knight, Jozwiak; Kazim-Richards
Nottingham Forest possible starting lineup:
Samba; Christie, Figueiredo, Worrall, Ribeiro; Garner, Cafu; Knockaert, Krovinovic, Mighten; Murray
We say: Derby County 1-1 Nottingham Forest
With sustained improvement on the line as well as pride, we expect a highly-competitive fixture between two teams on the up. However, both managers would take avoiding defeat at this stage of the campaign, and a low-scoring draw is the most likely result.