Rory Kleinveldt drove Daryn Smit for six with one ball to spare as Northants chased down 326 in 65 overs thanks to Richard Levi’s 99 and 98 from Robert Newton with Jeevan Mendis taking three wickets for Derbyshire.
Luis Reece with 168 and an unbeaten 156 from Billy Godleman had set a record Derbyshire opening stand of 333, but it was Northants who came out on top with a second four-day win of the season.
The morning was full of statistical highlights although the quality of cricket was questionable with the two sides contriving a declaration to set up the afternoon run chase.
Both Reece and Godleman plundered what was at best occasional bowling as Northants donated runs, with even wicketkeeper Adam Rossington turning his arm over.
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Reece became only the seventh Derbyshire batsman to score a century on debut in the county championship and sailed past his previous career-best 114 not out before he became Rob Newton’s maiden first-class victim.
By then, he and Godleman had eclipsed Derbyshire’s previous highest opening stand of 322 set by Harry Storer and Joseph Bowden against Essex at Derby in 1929 and their partnership was the third highest in the club’s history.
But the milestone Derbyshire wanted to celebrate was a championship victory and Davis raised their hopes by striking twice in the 11th over after Newton and Ben Duckett had put on 56.
Duckett bottom edged a pull and Alex Wakely was trapped on the back foot but Newton was playing shrewdly, reaching 50 from 51 balls, and with Rob Keogh put the innings back on track before two brilliant catches shifted the balance again.
Keogh’s low edge off Tony Palladino was superbly held by Gary Wilson plunging to his right and then Daryn Smit took a stunning catch at second slip to remove Adam Rossington when the ball looked to have passed him.
At tea, Derbyshire looked favourites but Levi’s brutal assault changed that as he dominated a stand of 90 from 87 balls, pulling Mendis for six before driving Tom Milnes for another to reach 50 from 39 balls.
He pulled Reece for a third six but Newton fell trying to reverse sweep Mendis and the game took another twist when Levi fell one short of a century aiming to swing the leg-spinner away.
Northants went into the last 10 overs needing 47 and were 27 short of victory when Holden drove Mendis to mid on but although the equation came down to a run a ball, Kleinveldt settled it with one blow over deep extra cover.