Tom Beadling kept his nerve to slot home a late penalty to earn Sunderland U23 a point in their Premier League 2 match at the Stadium of Light.
Mika, enjoying a rare taste of the action, was at fault on both occasions as Derby led twice in the second half through Mason Bennett and Kellan Gordon with sub Daniel Wright scoring in between for Andy Welch's team.
Sunderland looked like missing out but when Josh Lelan brought down sub Josh Maja, Beadling made no mistake from the spot.
There was no appearance for powerhouse striker Victor Anichebe, who was not risked, despite speculation he may get some game time.
Sunderland came close to nicking a seventh-minute lead when Jono Mitchell was caught dithering on the ball which almost let in Lynden Gooch, the keeper just getting the clearance away.
The ball fell nicely for Rees Greenwood whose shot from the ede of the box was easily caught by the Hartlepool-born stopper.
Mika, enjoying a rare piece of the action, showed his keeping skills have not been blunted by inactivity by diving to his left to keep out a sting shot by Kellan Gordon in the 12th minute.
Sunderland had the better of play, with Ethan Robson and Gooch tenacious, but did not create another opening until the 35th minute, George Honeyman's good run and shot forcing an excellent diving save by Mitchell 10 minutes before the break.
And the Black Cats almost went ahead within two minutes when Donald Love found Ethan Robson whose looping header from just inside the 18-yard box went over Mitchell and bounced off the top of the bar.
Keeping on top, Gooch was high, wide and not so handsome with a shot from the edge of the area.
Welch's side were fastest out of the blocks in the second half with Gooch and Rees Greenwood combining nicely to find Joel Asoro but the teenager hit the side-netting with his left-foot drive.
The hosts went even closer two minutes later when Greenwood did well to create space for a shot, with his right-foot effort from an acute angle producing a great Mitchell save onto his near post with the
goalie first to the loose ball.
But all the good Sunderland work was undone in the 57th minute.
Mika failed to punch clear a corner and the ball fell nice to the feet of BENNETT who prodded in from close range.
Sunderland came oh so close to an equaliser with, for once, the keeper beaten the luckless Ethan Robson saw his measured shot rebound off Mitchell's left-post.
The Black Cats pulled level in the 76th minute, though not for long.
Derby half-scrambled a Greenwood effort away, but only as far as Gooch who played the ball into the six-yard box, where sub WRIGHT converted.
But the home joy soon evaporated as Mika made a real hash of things allowing GORDON to strike the ball home.
Sunderland were handed a lifeline 86 minutes when the linesman adjudged Josh Lelan's sliding challenge on Maja was an illegal one.
The referee pointed to the spot and after Derby's complaints and, bizarrely, a subsitution, BEADLING sent Mitchell the wrong way.
SUNDERLAND U23 2
DERBY CO U23 2
Sunderland U23: Mika, J Robson, T Robson, Love (Wright 69), Beadling, Brady, Honeyman, E Robson, Gooch, Greenwood, Asoro (Maja 85).
Unused Subs: Stryjek, Molyneux, Embleton
Goals: Wright 76, Beadling (pen) 87
Booked: E Robson 29, Greenwood 80
Derby County: Mitchell, Stabana, McDonald, Guy, Cover, Lelan, Gordon, Vernam, Jakobsen (Walker 64), Babos, Bennett (Edwards 86).
Subs: Ravas, Bateman, Edwards, Bogle.
Goal: Bennett 57, Gordon 77
Booked: Stabana 23, Lelan 83
Referee: D Richardson