He scored a goal, kept a clean sheet and kept Rovers' £7.5m recruit Andy Cole quiet as we returned to the winning trail just in time to enjoy the back end of New Year celebrations.
Just days after Les Ferdinand claimed he was good enough to break into England's World Cup squad, the only shame was that Sven Goran Eriksson wasn't at the Lane to witness it.
It couldn't have been a bigger contrast to the last time Richards came up against Cole. That was his debut back in September and after scoring as went 3-0 up at the break, Cole opened the floodgates for Manchester United in a now-famous 5-3 defeat.
All eyes were on Cole right up to kick-off but that's where it ended.
We were on top throughout the first half but had to wait until a minute before the interval for the breakthrough.
It took only four minutes for the first chance of an eventful first half when Teddy Sheringham's flick released Steffen Freund for a clear run at goal. Slightly wide of centre, the midfielder dragged his shot across the target.
A minute later and a superb one-touch move involved Gus Poyet, Sheringham and Les Ferdinand handed Ferdinand a half-chance that he lifted over Friedel but wide of the mark.
Friedel then had to be at his best to keep out Sheringham's close-range effort from Ziege's trademark early cross.
The visiting goal somehow stayed intact with the scramble of the season so far after 15 minutes. Ziege's corner was flicked towards goal by Richards, Sheringham latched onto the ball but his shot was blocked by Friedel and Ferdinand, twice, Freund and Sheringham again all had a nibble before the ball was hacked clear.
Matt Jansen provided Kasey Keller's first work after 18 minutes, a tame header from Neill's cross but play soon switched to the other end as Anderton and Freund had no luck from distance and Ziege's control let him down as he attempted to race onto Anderton's astute pass.
Friedel had to be alert to deny Ferdinand a chance from Poyet's pass and after a scrappy period, Garry Flitcroft had Keller scrambling.
You could feel a sense of anxiety creeping into the another packed home crowd when Richards made his mark. After some of the passing football that had preceded it it was the simplest of goals - Anderton worked away to win a corner, swung it in himself and Richards flicked home at the near post as Friedel punched thin air.
Rovers came out with more intent in the second half and were almost rewarded when Tugay's 30-yarder curled inches wide. The Turkish midfielder then swung in a corner that Berg headed straight at Keller.
We continued to pass the ball well but more often than not play broke down on the edge of the box as play sometimes became over-complicated.
Rovers threw on both David Dunn and Craig Hignett on as they pushed forward without really threatening and at other end Ledley King misjudged Ziege's fine cross in front of goal.
Then came Cole's golden chance. Neill swung in a heavily-contested corner and Cole met it, unmarked, 10 yards out but Keller somehow parried the effort out. Cole snapped back in for the rebound but we managed to bundle it away.
Our defending became more frantic as Rovers desperately searched for that equaliser but despite a few heart-stopping moments, we held on.
This was the perfect afternoon for Dean Richards.