Norwich City took the points thanks to goals from Graham Dorrans, Josh Murphy and James Maddison, despite Tommy Spurr’s first goal for the club.
Dorrans opened the scoring just before the half hour mark with a deflected strike into the bottom left hand corner, before Murphy doubled the Canaries’ lead five minutes before the break with a side foot from 12 yards out.
A rejuvenated North End came out after the interval and Spurr headed home his first goal for the club after an intense period of pressure, but Maddison fired home from close range in injury time with Simon Grayson’s men chasing an equaliser.
The Lilywhites had a great chance to take an early lead, inside 90 seconds, when Aiden McGeady forced former England stopped John Ruddy into a fine stop after Callum Robinson had slid the ball in to the Irishman, before from the follow up visiting skipper Russell Martin sliced a shot clearance over the bar.
But North End, who had been given the news before the game of Tom Clarke’s long term absence, suffered a further defensive blow on ten minutes when Greg Cunningham was injured in a tackle and replaced by Tommy Spurr – the No.3 needing a stretcher to leave the field.
And they went behind on 28 minute as the ball found Scottish midfielder Dorrans 20 yards out and he fired in a low right-footed drive that deflected off the foot of Tom Barkhuizen, who tried to get a block in, but it just took it into the bottom right hand corner.
And the score was 2-0 with five minutes to go in the first half as Murphy side footed home into the bottom left hand of the goal after a break down the left hand side that saw Mitchell Dijks and Cameron Jerome combine to set up the young forward unmarked on the penalty spot.
It could have been worse before the break, when Alex Pritchard was played clean through by a North End back pass, but Chris Maxwell made a stunning save one-on-one to deny him.
The second half saw the home side start brightly, Barkhuizen won a free kick after testing Ruddy and Gallagher’s free kick was an inch wide of the right hand upright and then a second free kick which was floated to the back post from the right forced an early corner. Callum Robinson also tested Ruddy as the team reacted to the manager’s half-time words.
A clever and quick counter almost brought a goal as Maxwell’s long kick found Robinson, who tried to square for Barkhuizen - who was rushing through the middle – but Martin made a fine sweeping tackle to take the ball behind for a corner. The chances kept coming as yet another free kick, this time from the left, was again over the wall from skipper Gallagher, but this time an inch past the left hand post.
Robinson was again involved on the hour mark, threading Barkhuizen in behind the Norwich backline, but his shot on the half turn with his left foot was up and over Ruddy’s bar.
A change saw Daryl Horgan on for Marnick Vermijl and a switch to 3-5-2 and it almost paid immediate dividends and the Irish No.7 set up Gallagher for another shot that beat Ruddy, but also beat the left hand post from 20 yards.
But finally, at the half’s mid-point the goal came. Another free kick, out on the left hand touchline, saw Gallagher deliver into the box and substitute Spurr rose highest to flick a header into the top right hand corner for his first goal for the club.
And it was almost all level only 90 seconds later when a Robinson cross from the right was flicked on by Hugill and Naismith did brilliantly to get back and block Barkhuizen’s shot. From the resulting corner Huntington got in the header at the back post, but was just wide from ten yards out from another Gallagher delivery.
McGeady showed some quick feet to give himself space for a shot on the right hand side, but could only find the outside of the post and the side-netting, much to his own annoyance.
As the game entered the final couple of minutes a long ball from Andy Boyle found Hugill, who volleyed first time, past Ruddy, but also past the right hand post.
Three minutes of time was added on, but it wasn’t North End who got the game’s fourth goal, with men pushed up, it was the Caneries, as James Maddison slotted under Maxwell from a counter-attack in the second of three minutes added on.
PNE line-up: Maxwell, Vermijl (Horgan, 62), Cunningham (Spurr, 10), Browne, Huntington, Boyle, Barkhuizen, Gallagher (c), Robinson (Johnson, 82), Hugill, McGeady. Subs not used: Hudson, Makienok, Beckford, May.
Norwich City line-up: Ruddy, Dijks, Dorrans, Martin (c), Naismith, Howson, Jerome (Oliveira, 79), Pritchard (Maddison, 79), Bennett, Pinto, Josh Murphy. Subs not used: McGovern, Whittaker, Wildschut, Jacob Murphy, Godfrey.
Attendance: 11,373 (546 Norwich City fans)
Referee: Mr J Adcock