Sunderland failed to register their first away win of the season thanks to a contentious offside decision which ruled out Michael Chopra's finish.
Both teams fought hard in midfield to bring about a change in fortunes
Andy Reid crossed low from the left for Chopra to sidefoot past Derby keeper Roy Carroll on 38 minutes but referee Mike Riley disallowed his effort.
Moments later Derby captain Alan Stubbs nearly backheeled into his own goal.
Derby battled hard with Kenny Miller lively but are still searching for their first win under Paul Jewell.
In charge for 13 games before Sunderland's visit to Pride Park, Jewell rang the changes as his side battles against recording the lowest ever Premier League points total.
Midfielder Mile Sterjovski started his first game since his recent move from Genclerbirligi, while Eddie Lewis, Marc Edworthy and Emanuel Villa were all recalled.
The changes appeared to have little effect defensively as Daryl Murphy brought down Nyron Nosworthy's long punt and crashed a curling shot against the stricken Roy Carroll's post on four minutes.
But Derby responded immediately.
After Kenny Miller was booked for hacking down Kenwyne Jones the Scotland striker cleverly spUn inside the box and turned a half-volley just wide.
With animated Sunderland boss Roy Keane cajoling his players from the sidelines, the end-to-end action increased as Derby passed the ball well while Murphy and Michael Chopra flashed headers past the post.
Kieron Richardson, returning after a long injury lay-off, wasted a free-kick on 32 minutes blasting high and wide but Sunderland had the ball in the goal moments later.
With Derby's defence static, Andy Reid cushioned a low cross across the box for Chopra to sidefoot neatly past Carroll from 12 yards but man in the middle Riley blew for offside - a marginal decision.
The Rams had another let-off just before half-time when Danny Higginbotham stretched to volley a cross into the box. Reid flicked it on and Derby skipper Alan Stubbs inadvertently back-heeled the ball inches past his own goal.
Sunderland came out stronger after the break and carved out more chances but Kenwyne Jones, in acres of space, proved wasteful when shooting weakly into Carroll's arms from just outside the box.
Jewell made a series of substitutions early in the second-half in an attempt to turn the tide but, aside from a goalmouth scramble involving Marc Edworthy and Miller, Derby were struggling to break into the opposition penalty area.
As the competitive spirit of the game escalated the quality dropped and numerous stoppages broke up the play with yellow cards handed to Chopra and Darren Moore.
Miller, lacking support up front, fired over on the half-volley from outside the box and Sunderland keeper Craig Gordon had to punch clear off his forehead from a deep cross.
Either side could have stolen a late winner as the game became more open in the final seconds and substitute Hossam Ghaly made a superb block to deny Danny Higginbotham.
But both sets of defenders stood resolute to earn a point for their respective sides.
Derby boss Paul Jewell:
"It was a dreadful game. Conditions were windy out there and the referee was blowing his whistle every few seconds.
"The player's tried today. Last week was one of my lowest moments in football so it was an improvement.
"Sunderland were the team more likely to score but in the second half we defended well. Alan Stubbs was terrific alongside Darren Moore at the back today.
"We are not going to stay up but we just want to get past 15 point. The fans deserve that."
Sunderland manager Roy Keane:
"I can't fault the player's attitute and spirit-wise we were outstanding. But the game should have been dead and buried at half-time.
"We certainly had the better chances - and scored a legitimate goal that was disallowed.
"He [Chopra] was clearly onside and we are always told that the advantage goes with the attacking player.
"But we have nobody to blame but ourselves. Goals change games but we are quite happy with the clean sheet."
Derby: Carroll, Edworthy, Moore, Stubbs, McEveley, Sterjovski (Fagan 66), Jones (Ghaly 57), Pearson, Lewis, Miller (Earnshaw 80), Villa. Subs Not Used: Price, Feilhaber.
Booked: Miller, McEveley, Lewis, Moore, Villa.
Sunderland: Gordon, Bardsley, Nosworthy, Evans, Higginbotham, Chopra, Whitehead, Reid (Leadbitter 66), Richardson, Jones, Murphy (Stokes 80). Subs Not Used: Fulop, McShane, Prica.
Ref: Mike Riley (Yorkshire).
BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Sunderland's Daryl Murphy on 7.65 (on 90 minutes).
Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.