Two first half goals from Chris Martin gave Derby County the points at Deepdale, despite Daniel Johnson’s late goal.
The visitors found themselves 2-0 up before the break, Martin’s first a cool finish from eight yards out from Russell’s well directed cross-field ball and the second a powerful free-kick from the edge of the ‘D’.
After Chris Baird had been stretchered off there was 15 minutes of stoppage time and with three minutes left Daniel Johnson curled home his second goal of the season to give the Lilywhites hope against the then ten men Rams, but the visitors held on for the win.
The Lilywhites returned to a 3-5-2 formation with Greg Cunningham fit to return and Will Keane partnering Joe Garner in attack; new boys May and Doyle both amongst the substitutes.
The visitors in a turquoise third kit started brightly with £6m deadline day buy Bradley Johnson seeing a shot deflected over the bar ten minutes in, however, North End went close on 19 minutes when a ball from Cunningham found Garner, who headed down in the box, but it would not come down for Daniel Johnson and Keane, denying good shooting opportunity.
Shortly often No.11 Johnson went even closer, seeing a shot blocked by Richard Keogh after Keane headed down, creating the first PNE corner.
But it was from this that the visitors counter-attacked to grab the opener. Johnny Russell showed a clean pair of heels to the North End defence down the left, delivered a deep ball into the box for Martin to collect and then slot past Pickford with a calm finish from the right hand corner of the six yard box.
The lead was doubled eight minutes before the break. Russell was brought down on the edge of the box, Huntington cautioned for the foul and Derby’s No.9 stepped up and fired right-footed with real power into the top left hand corner from 20 yards out, giving England U21 stopper Jordan Pickford no chance.
In the final minute of the half Marnick Vermijl had the home side’s best chance of the opening period, seeing a shot blocked after exchanging a one-two with Tom Clarke in the right hand corner of the box and firing hard and low across goal.
With ten minutes of the second half gone manager Simon Grayson decided to put Eoin Doyle and Stevie May on, replacing Vermijl and Keane, with three up front for the Lilywhites for the final 35 minutes.
May forced a great point blank save out of Lee Grant with 17 minutes left and then Joe Garner was fouled in the box by Richard Keogh, only for referee Richard Clark, who had given four penalties against PNE in the previous two games he had officiated, to give the foul the other way!
It was Doyle next up to force Grant into a superb save, tipping the ball around the post after Daniel Johnson had slipped him through – whilst being fouled - in the ‘D’, the right-footed curling effort heading for the bottom right hand corner until the goalkeeper’s intervention.
The luck was completely against North End as the third member of the striking triumvirate – Joe Garner hit an excellent volley from Doyle’s lay back that beat Grant, but came back off the inside of the left hand post and into the keeper’s hands – unbelievable poor luck for the Lilywhites who were bombarding the Rams goal.
With eight minutes to go Chris Baird and Joe Garner clashed heads, the former coming off the worse, being stretchered off, leaving the visitors down to ten men. The game got back underway three minutes after the final whistle should have gone, with 12 minutes of additional time starting when the game finally got back underway.
Jordan Pickford denied substitute Andreas Weimann in the fifth minute of the 12, after a lay back from Johnny Russell, as the stoppage had taken all the momentum the Lilywhites had created out of the game.
With three minutes left North End got a lifeline as Daniel Johnson curled in an effort from 20 yards out in a right hand channel, the ball nestling in the left hand corner, however, the visitors held on under the pressure to take the points.
PNE line-up: Pickford, Vermijl (May, 55), Cunningham, Clarke (c), Huntington, Wright, Welsh (Humphrey, 70), Kilkenny, Keane (Doyle, 55), Garner, Johnson. Subs not used: Kirkland, Humphrey, Woods, Browne, Brownhill.
Derby County line-up: Grant, Christie, Keogh, Martin, Russell, Baird (c), Shackell, Johnson, Pearce, Butterfield (Hendrick, 61), Ince (Weimann, 76), Warnock (Forsyth, 79). Subs not used: Carson, Bent, Hanson, Shotton.
Attendance: 14,452 (3,234 away fans)
Referee: Mr R Clark