O’Neill felt that the atmosphere of old returned to a sell-out, packed-out City Ground and said it reminded him of his days as a player in a Reds shirt under Brian Clough.
“It was a cauldron, and the passion was twofold,” he said. “The crowd were fantastic for us. To start off, they gave us that impetus and the players wanted to perform, which was very important.
“As we tired towards the end and were hanging on, trying to make sure that we saw the game through, the crowd again were absolutely terrific. So I think the players and the crowd fed off each other.”
O’Neill said he was very happy with his side’s display as they came out on top in the East Midlands derby.
Yohan Benalouane’s early goal proved decisive and the new boss was full of praise for his side’s determination and character to get the important victory.
Speaking after the game, he said: “It was quite a win. We had a fantastic start, then Derby could have scored and we could have maybe made it two. The only surprise about tonight was that it ended 1-0.
“I am delighted to have won the game, naturally, and it was a strong, strong effort by the team.
“I thought we did terrifically, and we deserved to win the game because we were very determined. Defensively, we were very good, despite that early lapse, and, overall, there were some big performances.
“We have got improvement to make. The one thing you can say about the side is that they showed relentless character.
“That will win you some matches and some it won’t, but we have that improvement to make in the team, to get more possession of the ball and to manoeuvre it.”