Paul Gallagher’s first goal of the season and a Callum Robinson strike against his former club gave the Lilywhites all three points at Ashton Gate, despite a late goal from substitute Cauley Woodrow.
Gallagher fired home from inside the penalty area after an excellent run from Darnell Fisher, on his return to the side, and Robinson completed the win converting Tom Barkhuizen’s cross.
Manager Alex Neil had been given a boost by the availability of Fisher and Ben Davies after injury and Jordan Hugill after suspension, and they were three of four changes to the side that drew with Bolton, with Daniel Johnson also recalled to the starting XI.
Former North Ender Bailey Wright was one of three changes made by Lee Johnson, skippering the Robins against the club he started his English career, lining up at right back, with Josh Brownhill also in the starting XI.
The home side, sat fourth in the table before kick-off, having only lost two games this season, were on the back foot in the opening minutes, North End making the running, with the first chance coming when Daniel Johnson played an excellent through ball for the on-rushing Hugill in a right hand channel. The No.9 tried to cross for strike partner Stephy Mavididi – playing up alongside him in a 4-4-2 - but instead found former Blackburn Rovers trainee Frank Fielding in the City goal rather than his fellow forward.
The best of the early chances continued to go the way of the Lilywhites, as Fisher – impressive on his return to the side, both defensively and going the other way - broke through on the right hand side and crossed for Barkhuizen at the back post, but the ball was scooped up and over the bar for the man who was operating down the left wing, up against Wright.
Lee Johnson’s side had one chance in the first half and that came 17 minutes into the game, when a long ball into the box from a free kick on the way half line, caused a bit of a melee and eventually centre half Aden Flint saw a shot smashed at Davies on the line. It was an excellent block by the returning defender – brilliant getting his chest on the way to deny what would have been the opening goal.
As the half went on the passing of Paul Gallagher and the terrier-like qualities of Ben Pearson became more and more dominant.
Five minutes before the break a ball in from Gallagher – closing in on 200 appearances for the club - on the right caused problems, and the ball fell to Johnson on the edge of the box; his initial shot was blocked by Wright and the follow up went inches wide of the right hand post.
But the deadlock was broken on 44 minutes. Pearson won the ball 35 yards from his own goal and Fisher broke into the opposition half, committing a defender, charging at the heart of the Reds defence, before passing the ball into Hugill. He got a shot off which was blocked, but the ball fell nicely to Gallagher who turned, swivelled and shot hard and past Fielding into the middle of the goal for his first of the season.
Five minutes into the second half – the home side having made two changes at the break – the Lilywhites were unfortunate not to be awarded a penalty when Fisher, again breaking in from the right looked to be upended by Nathan Baker in the right hand corner of the box, but referee Darren Bond waved play on, replays looking very much like it should have been a spot kick.
Two minutes after the hour mark City were close to levelling, only for Barkhuizen to be jonny on the spot, making a fine goalline headed clearance, after Bobby Reid’s corner from the right was fired goalwards by one of the half-time changes, Niclas Eliasson.
With 19 minutes to go Pearson forced Fielding into a fine save with a 25 yard pile-driver that spilled away from the goalkeeper and almost to Hugill, who sprinted onto the follow up, however, the stopper was able to smother the second attempt.
The home side were having a lot of possession, but the best chances were still falling North End’s way, with Hugill meeting Barkhuizen’s cross with 12 minutes to go, beating the goalkeeper, but also the left hand post, flashing inches wide.
But moments later it was two. A brilliant counter attack.
This time Hugill held it up well, played it to Barkhuizen down the right, who broke with pace down the right, whipped across a ball into the six yard box and substitute Robinson – on for Gallagher - slid in and powered home into the bottom left hand corner, before celebrating with the PNE fans.
In the second minute of stoppage time Chris Maxwell was called upon for the first time all night after Bailey Wright’s ball into the box fell to Bobby Reid and the keeper smothered it brilliantly before Calum Woods followed up to clear.
However, in the fourth minute of time the deficit was reduced when Cauley Woodrow fired in from close range after a ricochet in the box.
Tom Clarke made his return from injury straight after the goal and North End held on for the win, making it nine unbeaten against the Robins.
Bristol City line-up: Fielding, Bryan (Woodrow, 67), Flint, Wright (c), Baker, Smith, Brownhill, O’Dowda, Reid, Paterson (Pack, 46), Djuric (Eliasson, 46). Subs not used: Steele, Taylor, Woodrow, Magnusson, Leko.
PNE line-up: Maxwell, Fisher, Woods, Pearson, Huntington (c), Davies, Gallagher (Robinson, 61), Johnson, Hugill (Clarke, 90), Mavididi (Browne, 56), Barkhuizen. Subs not used: Rudd, Clarke, Harrop, Welsh, O’Connor.
Attendance: 17,355 (375 PNE fans)
Referee: Mr D Bond