Wayne Rooney captained Derby County to victory on his debut for the Rams and set up their first goal as they beat Championship strugglers Barnsley.
Jack Marriott atoned for a number of squandered chances at Pride Park when he poked home Rooney’s free-kick just before half-time to put the Rams ahead.
Barnsley levelled soon after the break when Elliot Simoes tapped in after Derby goalkeeper Ben Hamer spilled Conor Chaplin’s shot.
Martyn Waghorn restored Derby’s lead when he fired home Andre Wisdom’s low cross and the hosts held on for victory.
Rooney, whose last game was at the end of October for DC United, played the full 90 minutes in the centre of midfield.
Derby remain 17th in a tight table but move level on points with Middlesbrough, while Barnsley are three points off safety in 23rd.
A decent debut for captain Rooney
Rams manager Phillip Cocu had no hesitation putting 34-year-old Rooney straight into the starting XI and making him captain, citing his “leadership” qualities.
Having joined the club on an 18-month player-coach deal in August, the former England captain was ineligible to play until January.
In a subdued but comfortable first-half performance, Rooney pulled the strings and finally gave a crowd of 27,782 reason to celebrate as he assisted the hosts’ opener with an excellent inswinging free-kick.
From midway inside Barnsley’s half, Rooney bent the ball over the defence and onto the foot of Marriott who finished first time from 12 yards.
He also played a part in their second goal, sending a lovely cross-field pass to Wisdom who then set up Waghorn.
Rooney even had the chance to mark his debut with a goal, but miscued a header from a few yards out and the ball dribbled wide.
After struggling for form this term, Derby started the match closer to the Championship relegation zone than the play-off places, but their win moved them to eight points off sixth place.
Monday’s win against Charlton was their first victory in eight games, with Rooney in the dugout as a coach for seven of those matches.
England’s all-time record goalscorer, Rooney won the Premier League five times, the Champions League, the FA Cup and three League Cups in 13 years with Manchester United and is now off to a winning start in his first spell in England’s second tier.
Marriott makes amends for misses
Before Rooney set up the opener for Marriott, the striker missed a couple of glaring opportunities. First, he fired wide of the mark from Waghorn’s delivery before he chipped a tame shot from distance wide after bursting through on goal.
Having started the game poorly, Barnsley were reinvigorated when boss Gerhard Struber made an early tactical change by bringing Simoes on for Mike Bahre after just 26 minutes.
They were almost rewarded just before Marriott’s opener when Mads Andersen found space at close range, forcing a last-minute block from a Derby defender.
Barnsley keeper Sam Radlinger made a stunning diving right-handed save to keep out Matt Clarke’s header shortly after the restart and the visitors immediately levelled through Simoes’ strike.
However, Waghorn’s composed finish ensured the hosts registered two wins in a row for the first time this season.
‘We dug in’
Rooney told BBC Radio Derby that it was important to stay focused despite all the hype around his debut.
“It was a big night for myself, big night for the club, a lot of excitement, but the main priority tonight was to get three points,” he said.
“It feels good to finally make my debut and help the team win.
“It was a difficult game, I thought Barnsley played well, made it tough for us, but we worked hard, created chances, we could have made it easier for ourselves but we dug in and worked hard until the end.
“It was a good ball and a great finish from Jack [Marriott]. I’m pleased for Jack because he needed that goal.”