Jordan Hugill was the hero with a late winner as the Lilywhites wore down a resolute ten man Queens Park Rangers at Deepdale.
The North End No.9 grabbed the goal just two minutes from time, guiding the ball under visiting keeper Alex Smithies, after collecting a defence-splitting pass from Paul Gallagher.
The game had changed mid-way through the first half after Jamie Mackie was given a straight red card for a tackle on Tom Clarke – the North End skipper returning to the starting XI after eight months on the sidelines.
The Rs also saw former North End defender Alex Baptiste given a second yellow card after the final whitsle, adding to the woes of former Blackpool manager Ian Holloway.
Clarke had returned to the side at centre half, alongside Paul Huntington, with Ben Davies slotting in at left back, with Calum Woods ruled out through injury.
Alan Browne started in a position just behind Hugill and the Irishman had two very good chances to give the home side an early lead – both coming in the space of 15 seconds. Firstly Tom Barkhuizen found his team-mate in a right hand channel and a driven shot brought a fine save from Smithies, but the ball came back out to Robinson on the left, who delivered a first time cross back to the edge of the six yard box and this time the No.8 met the ball, but headed over the bar from close range.
The key moment came 22 minutes in, as Clarke and Mackie went in for a tackle, the returning captain nicking the ball away from the Rangers No.12, who then came in over the top of the defender’s right foot, leaving him prone.
Referee Jeremy Simpson took moment to think, but then pulled the red card from his pocket and eventually the player made his way to the dressing room.
As is often the case when a side goes down to ten men, the visitors set up with two banks of four, with just Conor Washington as a lone attack, which meant patience and working the ball were always going to be the key for PNE.
Set pieces were also important and just before the half hour mark a free kick, 45 yards out in a right hand channel, from Gallagher was perfectly directed to just to the left of the penalty spot and Clarke rose highest to power a header past Smithies, but just wide of the right hand upright.
Gally was trying to orchestrate the attacks for Alex Neil’s men and another free kick eight minutes before the break was headed out to Ben Pearson, just to the right of the ‘D’, but his snap shot was a yard wide of the right hand post.
At the break the PNE boss made a double, tactical-change, with Josh Harrop and Kevin O’Connor introduced, Clarke and Browne withdrawn, with the team going to two up front, with Barkhuizen and Robinson down the sides.
The chances came regularly. Three minutes into the second period a Darnell Fisher cross from the right was met with a volley from Barkhuizen, but a fantastic save from Smithies saw him, not once, but twice tip the ball away and then over the bar. From the resulting Gallagher corner, Paul Huntington came close with a header.
Baptiste, playing at the heart of the Hoops defence, was having an excellent game against the club he spent a year on loan in 2016/17, and he made a superb block to deny Robinson on the hour mark. The forward driving goalwards from Fisher’s right wing pull back to the penalty spot.
The Lilywhites were trying to work the ball from side to side to create an opening and after an excellent spell of possession and patience with seven minutes left they did just that, eventually finding Gallagher 20 yards out. He whipped a shot across the goal, leaving the QPR No.1 flat-footed, but he was delighted the ball went just wide of the left hand post.
It looked as if Holloway’s men had held on for a point, but the goal finally came two minutes from time. Gallagher was once again involved - collecting the ball in the middle of the park, playing a quick one-two with Fisher, before then threading a through ball in behind the Rs defence where Hugill ran, took the ball on and then poked it under Smithies and into the middle of the Town End goal, much to the delight of the Deepdale faithful.
The home side did a great job of replicating their opponents for the remaining time, including the four minutes added on, running the clock down and taking the three points.
PNE line-up: Maxwell, Fisher, Davies, Pearson, Clarke (c) (O’Connor, 46), Huntington, Barkhuizen, Gallagher, Hugill, Browne (Harrop, 46), Robinson. Subs not used: Rudd, Boyle, Horgan, Pringle, Welsh.
QPR line-up: Smithies, Bidwell, Washington, Scowen, Mackie, Robinson, Baptiste, Luongo (c), Wszolek, Chair (Sylla, 90), Wheeler (Smith, 73). Subs not used: Lumley, Cousins, Manning, Goss, Smyth.
Attendance: 11,290 (518 QPR fans)
Referee: Mr J Simpson
Updated at (UK)
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