PNE were undone by two slick counter-attacks as Derby triumphed 2-1 at Deepdale.
Chris Martin pounced on Johnny Russell’s inch-perfect cross and slipped the ball under Jordan Pickford’s legs in the 23rd minute.
Martin added his second with a fierce free-kick 13 minutes later.
Joe Garner rattled the post in the second half and Derby were reduced to 10-men due to a bad injury to captain Chris Baird.
Baird was stretchered off after a clash of heads with Garner and as Paul Clement had used all his substitutes Derby could not replace the skipper who was taken to hospital in an ambulance.
Man-of-the-match Johnson popped up with a consolation goal in stoppage time as he sweetly curled the ball past Lee Grant into the bottom corner.
After the international break Simon Grayson makes three changes to the side that lost at Hull.
Paul Gallagher was missing from the squad due to a calf tweak.
He was replaced by Will Keane who had recovered from a knock to partner Garner up front.
Marnick Vermijl returned to the side and Greg Cunningham recovered from a hamstring tweak to replace Calum Woods and Chris Humphrey in the starting XI.
Bradley Johnson latched on to Marnick Vermijl’s misplaced pass but his shot from just outside the box was deflected over the bar.
Derby nearly took the lead from the subsequent set-piece as Tom Ince’s corner got a teasing flick-on at the near post and was just cleared away from goal by PNE in the 10th minute.
Kilkenny won a free-kick and whipped the set-piece into the box but Bailey Wright’s header flew way over in the 15th minute.
Derby constantly threatened on the counter and launched a slick move moments after Johnson’s fierce shot was just deflected wide up the other end.
Russell, who was proving to be a menace on the left wing, whipped an inch-perfect pass into the path of Martin who snuck away from his marker and coolly slipped the ball under Pickford in the 23rd minute.
Butterfield’s shot was too hot for Pickford to handle as he palmed the ball away towards the penalty spot but fortunately Welsh was on hand to clear the danger in the 30th minute.
And the striker bagged his second in the 36th minute as Derby staged a counter-attacking master-class.
Johnson’s pass in Derby’s half was missed by Welsh and Derby broke. Again Russell was the catalyst for the goal as he weaved, twisted and wormed his way towards goal before he was tripped just outside the box by Paul Huntington who was cautioned for the foul.
And Martin stepped up and sweetly curled the subsequent set-piece into the left hand corner.
Derby started the second half well. Butterfield weaved his way towards the back line before unleashing a fierce angled shot that just flew past the right post in the 46th minute.
Johnson stung Pickford’s palms with a fierce low strike from distance in the 53rd minute.
Doyle and May were brought on in the 55th minute and PNE had an attacking set-piece within moments of their introduction.
Garner was brought down by Chris Baird just inside Derby’s half and the referee booked the Rams captain. The subsequent set-piece was whipped in towards Doyle and May but PNE failed to test Grant.
Garner let rip from distance and May’s looping shot was deflected over as North End upped the ante.
Kilkenny - on set-piece duty in Gallagher’s absence - whipped a peach of a corner into the path of Garner but his diving header flew over.
Derby’s clearance rebounded off Garner into the path of May and his shot was palmed away by Grant.
Russell was booked for a late challenge on Cunningham in the 75th minute.
After some neat link-up play by Garner and May PNE nearly bagged a goal. May’s pass to Doyle in the box was too short but Johnson picked up the pieces to allow Doyle to curl the ball towards goal but his effort was just tipped round the post by Grant.
And Garner looked to have pulled one back as his fierce strike looked to be flying in but the ball crashed into the left post and rebounded to safety.
Moments later Garner was involved in an aerial challenge in the Derby box with Baird that left both players on the ground after they clashed heads.
Garner did not move for a number of seconds but thankfully the striker managed to sit back up and play on.
But Baird had to be stretchered off after receiving around 10 minutes of treatment on the pitch leaving the Rams down to 10-men.
The fourth official held up his board to say 12 minutes had been added on and North End impressed in the dying minutes.
Garner was booked for a collision with a Derby player in the 90th minute.
Up the other end Pickford beat away substitute Andreas Weimann’s curling effort.
And man-of-the-match Johnson finally pulled a goal back with a curling left footed strike that nestled in the bottom left corner in the 102nd minute.
PNE: Pickford, Clarke, Wright, Huntington, Cunningham, Kilkenny, Johnson, Welsh ( Humphrey, 71), Vermijl (May, 55), Keane (Doyle, 55), Garner. Subs not used: Kirkland, Woods, Browne, Brownhill.
Derby: Grant, Christie, Keogh, Martin, Russell, Baird, Shackell, Johnson, Butterfield (Hendrick, 61), Ince (Weimann, 74), Warnock (Forsyth, 78). Subs not used: Carson, Bent, Hanson, Shotton.
Referee: Richard Clark (Northumberland)
Attendance: 14452 (3234 away)