You can debate the red cards which helped swing this game in Derby’s favour until you’re blue in the face.
But the effects of the outcome are there in the black and white of the Championship table.
Although the bulk of the results elsewhere went their way, 17th-placed Town remain too close (six points) to the relegation zone for comfort.
And far too close to it given their situation at the halfway point of the season.
Back on December 29, Mark Robins’ side were 11th after a 5-1 home destruction of Yeovil.
Saturday’s was a 12th defeat in 19 games since, and the third in a row.
Town have gone nine without a win, and desperately need to avoid that number reaching double figures.
Play-off hopefuls Brighton will present another tough test when they come to the John Smith’s on Friday in sixth place on the back of a 3-0 home win over Charlton.
Both were red carded for second yellows in the East Midlands, where Steve McClaren’s side kept their grip on third place.
Lynch, only just back after groin surgery, walked two minutes before half-time, with the score 1-1, Nahki Wells having put Town ahead before Johnny Russell levelled.
And skipper Clarke went in the 57th minute after conceding the penalty from which Chris Martin put Derby 3-1 up, his side having been gifted the advantage by keeper Alex Smithies’ lapse five minutes after the restart.
All three must accept their role in the result.
Lynch’s first caution was for taking too long over a throw-in in the 31st minute, four minutes after Derby’s equaliser, and it is unusual to see such a decision so early in a game.
But Town had already been warned about time-wasting by referee Darren Deadman.
Lynch was let down by his teammates’ failure to show for the throw.
But having been cautioned, he then made a rash touchline challenge on Patrick Bamford close to the halfway line which few would deny merited a booking.
Clarke’s first caution was for a fifth-minute foul on Will Hughes, the same player brought down for the penalty.
It looked a fair enough decision, but then so did Danny Ward’s 10th-minute claim when he went down under Jake Buxton’s challenge, which was waved away.
Deadman also did little about Derby’s delaying tactics as they consolidated their two-goal advantage against nine men.
There was some consolation in Town’s stout defending in the closing stages, when Smithies, having pretty much pushed Chris Forsyth’s cross over his own line, made smart saves from Jamie Ward and Russell.
He had earlier thwarted Russell and made a great block to deny Bamford, but his slip will give further ammunition to those who argue Robins should sign a young pretender for that place between the posts.
And there was some encouragement in a spirited opening to the game, with Wells prodding home Ward’s cross to claim his sixth Town goal.
Town, with Jonathan Hogg back in midfield and Clarke and Calum Woods in their starting side (Tommy Smith, Paul Dixon and Oscar Gobern dropped out) did produce a reaction to that dire home defeat by Ipswich last Tuesday.
Now they have to do the business against Brighton, and hopefully follow up by bringing three points back from Yeovil next Monday.
Huddersfield Town fans, are you pictured at Derby County defeat? Take a look here
Run of the ball
3mins: Alex Smithies blocks a Johnny Russell shot, and former Town loan man Richard Keogh puts the rebound over.
10mins: Danny Ward goes down under Jake Buxton’s challenge, but Town have their penalty appeal waved away.
13mins: Town take the lead through Nahki Wells, who sidefoots home from Ward’s cross.
21mins: Wells seizes on Keogh’s poor back pass, but home keeper Lee Grant blocks the shot.
23mins: Patrick Bamford heads narrowly over.
28mins: Derby are level as Russell runs onto George Thorne’s pass and flicks the ball over Smithies.
38mins: Ward’s shot is parried, Wells puts the rebound across the face of the goal and wide.
43mins: Joel Lynch is sent off.
44mins: Bamford shoots over with the goal gaping.
50mins: Derby are in front as Smithies can only push a Craig Forsyth cross into his own goal.
55mins: Smithies saved well from Bamford.
57mins: Peter Clarke is red carded and Chris Martin puts Derby further ahead from the penalty spot.
84mins: Keogh’s flicked effort goes narrowly wide.
85mins: Clayton shoots wide.
87mins: Smithies saves from Jamie Ward’s header.
88mins: Smithies saves Russell’s fierce shot.
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