Mark McGhee warned today that Albion cannot depend on other teams to save them from relegation.

Last night's comprehensive defeat against a rampant Derby at Pride Park equalled the Seagulls' heaviest of the season.

Nottingham Forest's 2-2 home draw with rock-bottom Rotherham means there is still a five-point gap between Albion and the drop zone but McGhee's main concern is his own team's results.

They were already trailing to the fit-again Tommy Smith's fifth goal of the season early on when young rightback Adam El-Abd was forced off with a virus before half time.

Grzegorz Rasiak, a class act, added two more goals for County in the second half to raise his tally to four in eight Championship games.

McGhee, reflecting on a second successive away defeat following Saturday's 2-0 reverse at Sunderland, said: "If we keep losing we will still eventually end up in the bottom three. We are going to need 51 points.

"Derby played well. I would be surprised, given their position in the table and the number of points they had before the game, if they have played better than that this season.

Impressed "I was well impressed with them. Their movement and forward play were excellent and their tempo really gave us problems all night and left us a little bit fragmented."

The one bright spot for Albion was the return to form of Leon Knight, despite spurning an early chance to head his first away goal in open play for 11 months.

McGhee said: "I thought that was the best he has played. He looked back to himself, hungry and aggressive."

The decision by Derby manager George Burley to play Smith on the right side of midfield, rather than Worthing-born Marcus Tudgay, was rewarded after only nine minutes.

The former Watford and Sunderland player, returning from a hamstring injury, worked a slick one-two with Rasiak before placing a left-foot shot beyond Kuipers into the far corner.

Both teams could already have been on the score-sheet by then in a pulsating opening.

Rasiak, Derby's lanky Polish International, got the better of Hinshelwood inside the opening minute to hit an angled drive from close range which Michel Kuipers blocked for a corner.

Knight, dropping deep and looking particularly lively for the Seagulls, should have put them in front but headed over from six yards from a cross by Dan Harding after a patient Albion move.

Albion had a good shout for a penalty in the 13th minute but Darren Currie was booked for diving by referee Eddie Evans, even though Jeff Kenna appeared to make contact with him.

Albion were being ripped open down their right flank by Marco Reich and the marauding Jamie Vincent.

Reich produced another chance for Derby via an exquisite back heel and exchange of passes with Rasiak before his deep cross was volleyed narrowly over by Smith.

The introduction of Carpenter for El-Abd late in the first half saw the Seagulls revert to what was expected to be their starting line-up, with Hinshelwood dropping to right back.

The biggest encouragement for Albion at the halfway stage was that they were only one behind when Derby could already have been out of sight.

Albion needed a period of stability at the start of the second half.

Instead their deficit doubled four minutes into the restart, Peschisolido sending Rasiak clean through to slot past Kuipers.

The Seagulls retained a glimmer of hope, because Derby continued to look vulnerable at the back.

Hinshelwood almost halved the arrears when his stab from Currie's corner was cleared off the line by the ubiquitous Reich, moments after John Piercy had been brought on for his first appearance of the season at the expense of Dean Hammond.

Derby's third ten minutes from time put the issue beyond doubt, Rasiak rising to score with a superb downward header from Smith's right-wing cross.

The decisive outcome gave Derby a hat-trick of victories for the first time since September 98 following previous wins against Burnley and Rotherham.

What Albion do not need now is to complete a hat-trick of defeats at home to Crewe on Saturday.

ALBION (3-5-2) Kuipers 8; El-Abd 6; Cullip 7; Butters 7; Harding 6; Hinshelwood 6; Hammond 6; Oatway 6; Curry 6; Knight 8; Virgo 6. Subs: Mayo for Oatway (withdrawn 67), Carpenter for El-Abd (ill 39), Jarrett, Piercy for Hammond (withdrawn 54), May.

Booking: Currie (13)diving.

DERBY COUNTY (4-4-2) Camp; Kenna; Huddlestone; Johnson; Vincent; Smith; Bolder; Idiakez: Reich; Peschisolido; Rasaik. Subs: Grant, Taylor for Bolder (withdrawn 74), Mills for Idiakez (withdrawn 84), Holmes, Tudgay for Smith (withdrawn 81)

Booking: Bolder (3) foul
Scorers: Smith (9), Rasaik (49,80)