Match ends, Derby County 2, Cardiff City 2.
Craig Bryson's late goal saved a point for Derby County and denied caretaker duo Danny Gabbidon and Scott Young the perfect start in charge of Cardiff.
Aron Gunnarsson had put Cardiff ahead after Matthew Connolly flicked on a corner, and Peter Whittingham doubled their lead with a left-foot strike.
Derby hit back when Cyrus Christie laid on a perfect ball for Jordon Ibe.
With four minutes remaining, Bryson let fly from distance and saw his shot go in off the inside of a post.
The result capped a turbulent week for Cardiff following the departure of manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, with Gabbidon and Young thrust into the Bluebirds hot-seat.
If Cardiff's focus was on the new men in charge, then Derby's was firmly on a great leader of the past and there was a minute's applause to mark the 10th anniversary of the death of former manager Brian Clough.
Gunnarsson nearly put an early dampener on the Pride Park atmosphere as he headed narrowly wide from a free-kick.
But the Rams then took charge and David Marshall in the Cardiff goal denied Chris Martin and Jamie Ward.
Cardiff were on the back foot for most of the first half but came out after the break reinvigorated and stunned Derby with two goals in the space of five minutes.
Pilkington set up Gunnarsson for a shot that was deflected behind and from the corner Connolly headed the ball back across for Gunnarsson to hook it past Lee Grant from six yards.
Former Norwich winger Pilkington had a hand in Cardiff's second as he went past two defenders on the right to set up Whittingham, who lashed a shot into the top right-hand corner from 15 yards.
On-loan Liverpool wing Ibe, who Derby boss Steve McClaren had sent on moments earlier, got them back in the game when Christie played the ball across the face of the Cardiff box for the teenager to score.
The visitors were pegged back and the pressure finally told in the 84th minute when Johnny Russell cut in from the right and found Bryson, who unleashed an unstoppable shot from 20 yards which hit the inside of a post and flashed past Marshall.
Derby boss Steve McClaren: "You could probably have said at half-time there was only going to be one winner so to be two down five minutes into the second half, there was disbelief, I think on their bench as well.
"But then there was terrific character shown by the players to come back and we could and should have won it at the end. Again the players have shown great character and climbed a mountain."
Cardiff caretaker Scott Young: "Our directive was to take charge of the team today and I'm sure we will be having a conversation with the chairman and the owner pretty soon.
"We have the wheels in motion to prepare the team for Tuesday already and we will have a conversation and see where it takes us."
- 14EustaceSubstituted forBestat 59'minutes
- 10WardSubstituted forRussellat 79'minutes
- 7DawkinsSubstituted forIbeat 53'minutes
- 5Ecuele Manga
- 17GunnarssonBooked at 62minsSubstituted forMaynardat 72'minutes
- 11NooneSubstituted forLe Fondreat 63'minutes
- 7WhittinghamBooked at 90mins
- 10Le Fondre
- 22Guerra Rodríguez
- Andre Marriner
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Derby County 2, Cardiff City 2.
Attempt missed. Craig Bryson (Derby County) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the right. Assisted by Jordon Ibe.
Peter Whittingham (Cardiff City) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Craig Bryson (Derby County) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Peter Whittingham (Cardiff City).
Attempt blocked. Leon Best (Derby County) right footed shot from the right side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Jordon Ibe with a cross.
Goal! Derby County 2, Cardiff City 2. Craig Bryson (Derby County) right footed shot from outside the box to the bottom left corner. Assisted by Johnny Russell.
Attempt saved. Johnny Russell (Derby County) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the centre of the goal.
Corner, Derby County. Conceded by John Brayford.
Offside, Derby County. Johnny Russell tries a through ball, but Leon Best is caught offside.
Attempt saved. Adam Le Fondre (Cardiff City) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by David Marshall.
Corner, Derby County. Conceded by Joe Ralls.
Substitution, Derby County. Johnny Russell replaces Jamie Ward.
Attempt missed. Jordon Ibe (Derby County) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the left.
Corner, Derby County. Conceded by Kenwyne Jones.
Attempt blocked. Leon Best (Derby County) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Richard Keogh.
Corner, Derby County. Conceded by Matthew Connolly.
Attempt blocked. Nicky Maynard (Cardiff City) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Kenwyne Jones with a headed pass.
Substitution, Cardiff City. Nicky Maynard replaces Aron Gunnarsson.