Noreth End and the Blades must do it all again in ten days time after a 1-1 draw in the fourth round of the FA Cup at Deepdale.
Pasul Gallagher opened the scoring in the first half, but the visitors levelled matters through Diego De Girolamo mid-way through the second period.
Gallagher gave the Lilywhites the lead just before the 20 minutes mark, rifling a free kick into the bottom left hand corner from 30 yards out.
However, De Girolamo poked home from close range in the 68th minute after a quickly taken free kick was swept in from the left.
There were six changes for the Lilywhites, Sylvan Ebanks-Blake making his first start in a lilywhites shirt and Thorsten Stuckmann in for the cup tied Sam Johnstone between the sticks; whilst Nigel Clough made eight changes to the side that faced Spurs in the League Cup semi-final first leg days earlier.
North End started brightly and Ebanks-Blake saw a goal-bound shot deflected wide for the first corner of the game just five minutes in.
Gallagher was then denied after dancing past three Blades defenders, Terry Kennedy blocking for another corner.
However, the No.12 broke the deadlock from a set piece on 19 minutes. The free kick was awarded 30 yards out after Ebanks-Blake had been fouled as the ball came back to him from a Kyel Reid flick. Gallagher, who scored two in the previous round, showed his prowess with the mango ball arrowing an effort up and over the wall and dipping down to finish in the bottom left hand corner of Mark Howard’s goal.
It was the on loan man’s ninth of the season and his sixth in nine games for the Lilywhites in the FA Cup.
Kyel Reid began the second period with a driving run and shot that Howard had to get down low to; after he himself had done well to cut out a loose midfield ball.
On 53 minutes some brilliant defending from Calum Woods kept North End ahead. The visitors worked the ball through well and Jose Baxter was one-on-one with Stuckmann. He poked the ball past the big German, but Woods superbly got back and just cleared the ball off the white of the line.
Paul Gallagher hit the outside of the post just two minutes later as a powerful run from Reid created space and Gallagher received the ball in the left hand corner of the box, via Ebanks-Blake, curling it past Howard but flicking the post and out.
Stuckmann denied Blades sub Jamie Murphy on the hour mark as the tie opened up and the atmosphere grew inside Deepdale.
Higdon had a good chance after Baxter had played a reverse ball into the front man 15 yards out with 25 minutes to go, but the striker scooped the ball over the bar.
Tom Clarke got a superb flick onto a Paul Gallagher free kick just moments after Higdon’s miss, but the ball flashed wide of the right hand post with Howard beaten.
But the visitors drew level at the half’s mid-point. A quickly taken free kick down the left of the box saw a chance to pull the ball back to the edge of the six yard box and Diego De Girolamo scooped the ball in off a PNE defender.
Five minutes were added on to what had become a real blood and thunder cup tie and roses battle, but the two sides had to settle for a replay at Bramall Lane on Tuesday 3rd February.
PNE line-up: Stuckmann, Woods, Buchanan, Kilkenny (King, 62), Clarke (c), Huntington, Humphrey, Welsh (K Davies, 74), Ebanks-Blake, Gallagher, Reid (Browne, 85). Subs not used: Hudson, Laird, Wiseman, Brownhill.
Sheffield United line-up: Howard, Alcock, Basham, Baxter (c), B Davies (Harris, 82), McGahey, Higdon, Reed, De Girolamo (McNulty, 78), Kennedy, Dimaio (Murphy, 56). Subs not used: Long, Harris, Doyle, Scougall, McNulty, Campbell-Ryce.
Attendance: 10,770 (2,819 away fans)
Referee: Mr K Stroud