ICELANDIC international Kari Arnason was the Rotherham United hero as his late winner capped a superb second-half fightback from the Millers as they earned a vital three points at the expense of relegation rivals Millwall.
Martyn Woolford gave the home side a mountain to climb at the interval but Danny Ward levelled matters just minutes into the half.
With the game finely poised, Arnason came through a ruck of bodies to head home the winner with just minutes remaining and give Steve Evans’ men a six-point gap over the South Londoners.
Following back-to-back defeats at the hands of Wolves and Watford respectively, the Millers made three changes to their starting line-up for the visit of Ian Holloway’s Lions.
Scottish international Kirk Broadfoot returned at the heart of the Rotherham rearguard at the expense of club skipper Craig Morgan with Paul Green taking the captain’s armband.
Conor Newton was given an opportunity to impress in the Millers engine room as Rob Milsom had to settle for a substitutes' berth while Ward was given the task of partnering Matt Derbyshire upfront with Derby loanee Conor Sammon the one to make way.
The home fans had their hearts in the mouths in the early stages when Alan Dunne’s long punt upfield saw Arnason and Adam Collin hesitate momentarily but Lee Gregory was on his heels as the home ‘keeper eventually snuffed out the danger.
Minutes later, Gary Taylor-Fletcher rose highest to meet Dan Harding’s looping cross but his header cleared the crossbar before Arnason had Rotherham’s first effort at goal but it will not leave long in the memory as his ambitious effort screwed harmlessly wide of the visitors’ goal.
In the home side’s next attack, Derbyshire was tripped on the edge of the box by Dunne as he looked to jink into the box and Rotherham almost made the Lions pay from the resultant free-kick when Ben Pringle curled an effort which sailed over the defensive wall but David Forde was on his toes to parry the ball to safety.
Just past the quarter hour, Green’s heels were clipped by Woolford and Pringle delivered a tantalising centre which saw Forde punch the ball clear under pressure from home runners before Millwall made the decisive breakthrough on 20 minutes arguably against the run of play.
There looked little danger when Harding floated a deep centre to the far post but Taylor-Fletcher got the better of Zeki Fryers to head the ball back into the path of Woolford, who controlled and volleyed in one movement, and the ball beat the outstretched hand of Collin to find the corner of the net.
The Millers responded superbly to the setback and Pringle threaded a ball through a ruck of bodies presenting Newton with an opportunity to strike but he was crowded out as he cut inside before Derbyshire headed over following Fryers’ inviting centre in the next phase of play.
Just before the half-hour, Forde had a stroke of luck when he dallied in possession and Derbyshire almost charged down his clearance as the ricochet flew over his own goal before Ward came within inches of meeting Jack Hunt’s delicious cross with the goal at his mercy but he narrowly failed to make contact.
Moments later, Richie Smallwood had a drilled effort from distance deflected behind by ex-Blade Michael Tonge before Hunt got the better of Woolford to float a delicate centre which saw Derbyshire, despite having his back to goal, glance a header which had Forde nervously scurrying across goal as it grazed the upright.
With half-time approaching, the Millers were indebted to ‘keeper Collin for keeping them in the game as Rotherham failed to deal with an arrowed ball forward and Taylor-Fletcher flicked the ball forward into the path of Gregory, who shrugged off the attentions of Arnason, but despite looking a certain scorer, the ex-Carlisle stopper bravely stood up tall to block his point-blank effort.
Half-time:- Rotherham United 0 Millwall 1
With the words of gaffer Steve Evans ringing in their ears, the Millers were quick out of the blocks following the restart and they were rewarded for their efforts with the equaliser two minutes in.
Following good work by Arnason on the left-flank, Pringle swung a deep centre which saw Derbyshire show bravery to head the ball back into the danger area and it fell invitingly into the path of Ward, who struck a sweet left-footed effort which was arrowing towards goal and Jos Hooiveld in attempting to clear could only deflect the ball into the heart of the visitors’ goal wrongfooting Forde in the process.
With the game in the balance, the visitors were stung into action and Taylor-Fletcher’s mazy run was halted by a last-ditch tackle before Diego Fabbrini showed fleet of foot to clip a cross which was inch-perfect for Woolford to head goalwards but Broadfoot threw his body on the line to block his goalbound effort before Green hacked the ball clear from under his own crossbar.
Just past the hour mark, the Millers came within a whisker of grabbing the lead when Arnason’s sweeping pass saw Harding commit himself needlessly paving the way for Hunt, to advance menacingly into the box before firing a daisycutter which evaded the attentions of Forde before smashing against the post and the ball fell into the path of Newton, who was converged upon by retreating defenders before he could get his shot away.
Jimmy Abdou became the first to see yellow as he cynically hauled over Derbyshire in the left-hand channel but Smallwood fluffed his lines from the resultant free-kick as his centre evaded the home runners.
There was a moment of controversy when sub Ricardo Fuller seemed to usher Green off the ball illegally before firing a snap shot which was deflected behind before in a carbon copy of the earlier move, Arnason found Hunt with Harding out of the picture and the Palace loanee released sub Adam Hammill, whose hanging cross found Pringle at the far post but the once-Lions target was unable to strike goalwards.
With the game delicately poised, Hammill made light work of Abdou to curl a delightful centre which narrowly evaded the clever run of Derbyshire before the Huddersfield loanee was in the thick of the action moments later when his deft flick presented Ward with a chance to strike goalwards but Dunne threw his body in the way of the shot.
From the resultant centre, the Millers had faint appeals for a spot kick when Pringle’s centre was not cleared decisively and in the following melee, Broadfoot lost his footing with the home fans’ claiming his heels were clipped by a retreating defender.
The home side were sniffing blood and it was no surprise when they grabbed the decisive winner when Pringle curled another delightful corner into the danger area and Arnason timed his run to perfection to power an unstoppable header from point-blank range and the ball evaded the ruck of bodies on the home line to send the AESSEAL New York Stadium faithful into raptures.
With time running out for the visitors, Tonge fired a free-kick harmlessly over the bar before the Millers successfully ran down the clock to give their hopes of escaping the drop a timely boost against their nearest challengers.
Full-time:- Rotherham United 2 Millwall 1
Teams:- Rotherham- Collin, Arnason, Broadfoot, Green, Newton (Hammill 69), Pringle, Ward (Frecklington 90), Derbyshire (Sammon 89), Fryers, Hunt, Smallwood. Unused:- Loach, Milsom, Richardson, Clarke-Harris.
Millwall:- Forde, Dunne, Hooiveld, Williams, Fabbrini (Upson 86), Gregory (O’Brien 66), Woolford, Harding, Abdou, Tonge, Taylor-Fletcher (Fuller 58). Unused:- King, Beevers, Martinez, Nelson
Referee:- Gary Sutton
Attendance:- 10329 (1309).