Steve McClaren praised his Derby side's spirit after coming from a goal down to beat Brighton 2-1, but warned his players not to be complacent in the second leg.
County went 1-0 down in the 18th minute of Thursday night's Championship play-off semi-final first-leg tie at the Amez Stadium when on-loan forward Jesse Lingard gave the hosts the lead.
However, a penalty from Chris Martin and an own-goal from Brighton goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak saw Derby take the lead before the interval.
The result hands the Rams a crucial advantage going into the second leg at the iPro Stadium, but McClaren felt his side could have gone into Sunday's clash further in front.
He said: "We knew the first 20 minutes (were important), they got momentum and were emotional and we didn't do our jobs and we conceded, but what a reaction from the team.
"You saw every aspect of why we are where we are... good transitions, and good counter-attacking football to create the chances.
"Then you saw in the second half, we were defending too deep and allowed too many balls into the box. But the way they defended was everything you could ask for.
"After the goal, once we got organised and stopped the ball going down our right-hand side, then we were comfortable and looked very dangerous on the break and could have scored more.
"Brighton have got a good record away from home. We've got to be on the front foot, we've got to take our game to them and get the crowd behind us.
"All the players have really got to be on the front foot and fight to maintain this result."
McClaren singled out praise for Rams goalkeeper Lee Grant, who spectacularly tipped a shot from Brighton striker Leonardo Ulloa over the bar to keep the away side in front just after the hour mark.
"Grant has been fantastic this season," he said. "At the right times, he's pulled off the saves that have got us the points. Today he's pulled off saves to get us the result."
Speaking after the game, Grant told Sky Sports that the Derby players are focused on the second leg and will not rest on their narrow advantage.
He said: "It's not time to be getting carried away. It's half-time so it's positive but lots of hard work to do.
"We only know how to play one way. It's been well documented over the last few weeks they'll come to look to put it on us.
"We'll have to stand up to that, but hopefully we can nick something at the other end as well."