A superb individual strike by Stuart Beavon two minutes before the break had given the Lilywhites the lead; the frontman – the team’s only change from the draw with Coventry, curling the ball into the Shrewsbury top corner from 25 yards.
But Jon Taylor had equalised in a rare attack for the Shrews just after the hour mark and then Richards converted in the last minute after Marvin Morgan had been brought down by left back Ben Davies.
Before that opening goal, the game had lacked chances for either side. North End’s best opening had come after only five minutes, when the two frontman of King and Cummins combined, the former getting to the byline and pulling the ball back for PNE’s Irish No.9, but on loan Salop defender Cameron Gayle cleared the ball off the line.
The visitors created very little for North End to be worried about in the opening half, their two rare corners easilt dealt with by Thorsten Stuckmann and their only effort, a header from skipper Matt Richards.
It took PNE 35 minutes to win a corner, which brought a good chance. The corner had been conceded with a miss kick by full back Joe Jacobsen. Beavon’s initial outswinger from right was a poor delivery, but it eventually came out to Ben Davies; his ball back out to Beavon, was volleyed in and Chris Robertson powered a header just wide of the right hand post.
North End took the lead on 43 minutes with a piece of real quality from Beavon, returning to the side in place of Jeffrey Monakana, who joined new signing Declan Rudd on the substitutes bench.
The No.29 had drifted in from the right, where he had been playing as part of a 4-4-2. He found himself in a central position, picked up the ball 30 yards out, moved forward a step and curled the ball into the top right hand corner from 25 yards out, much to the delight of the home crowd.
Former North Ender Paul Parry was brought on at the break by the visitors in replacement for Luke Rodgers in an attacking role to try and inject some forward play into their side.
But it was North End who made the early running after the break, Lee Holmes seeing a 15 yard effort brilliantly tipped over the bar by Chris Weale. Holmes himself took the corner which eventually saw Nicky Wroe fire in a volley, only denied his tenth goal of the season by a superb block from Darren Jones.
Completely against the run of play the visitors levelled when Jon Taylor fired low into the bottom left hand corner from 18 yards out. It was their first attack of note in the game and came as North End had built up a head of steam.
As the teams came back to start again John Welsh replaced Joel Byrom and the Scouse midfielder went close to an immediate reply, only to fire over, whilst moments later Graham Cummins saw Cameron Gayle deny him consecutive home goals, after the Irishman had beaten the keeper, but not the man of the line.
It was all North End now and at the midway point in the half Lee Holmes drove forward into the box with a 40 yard run, before turning onto his favoured left foot, opening the goal up, but with his first home strike at his mercy he fired over the bar under pressure from Yado Mambo.
Holmes was at the heart of the best creative play for PNE, but it was Welsh who forced the next save from Weale, a miss hit effort needing a flick over from the former Leicester man. And from the corner the ball was fired in from Welsh, finding Cummins at the back post; he made a fierce connection, but couldn't keep the ball down.
Cummins was denied again on 78 minutes, heading Wroe's cross downwards, but Weale got down to hold the effort from the former Cork man, this was his last action as Jeffrey Monakana replaced the frontman, goalscorer Stuart Beavon moving into attack alongside former Didcot team-mate Jack King.
The marauding winger had an immediate impact winning a corner on the right. Holmes again delivered and skipper Bailey Wright rose highest, throwin himself at the ball, but glancing his effort inches past the left hand post.
Shrewsbury were adopting a 4-6-0 formation but in the 89th minute disastwer for North End as the referee Scott Duncan adjudged Ben Davies to have brought down Marvin Morgan in the box and Salop skipper Matt Richards stepped forward and smashed the penalty down the middle to give them the lead.
Five minutes of stoppage time ensued with Paul Huntington thrown into the forward line and despite the best efforts of the Lilywhites, the visitors held on for the win.