The Rams hammered Blackpool 4-0 at iPro Stadium to remain seven points behind second-placed Norwich City which could be a much different story if Steve McClaren had all of his strikers fit and firing.
31-year old Bent joined Derby from Aston Villa in early January and has now scored 12 goals in 15 appearances which was highlighted by McClaren after the triumph over the Seasiders.
"Thank heaven we managed to get him on loan from Villa in January. He's been phenomenal for us," he said.
"Unfortunately we lost both Darren and Chris Martin for five games and that cost us heavily. Another half dozen points from that spell and look where we'd be now."
Derby sit fifth on the Championship table with three fixtures remaining suggesting the seven-point deficit with the Canaries may be too much as they look to settle for a promotion play-off.