Preston North End went out of the Emirates FA Cup at Deepdale despite Andrew Hughes’ third goal of the season.
John Marquis opened the scoring in the first half, but Hughes equalised with a header from a Paul Gallagher corner, however, second half goals from Tom Anderson and Mallik Wilks put Rovers through.
The visitors took the lead after only five minutes as Wilks got some space on the right-hand side and delivered a cross to the back post to where Marquis headed home his 19th goal of the season from close range past debutant Michael Crowe.
The Lilywhites dominated possession and they went close to equalising on ten minutes when a Hughes half-volley was pushed out by Ian Lawlor in the Rovers goal, after Gallagher’s free kick from the left had caused a bit of head tennis.
Grant McCann’s side were still a threat in their rare forays into the PNE box and from a corner Graham Burke was needed to clear off the line.
But it was at the other end that the clearest of the chances came. Six minutes before the break, Lawlor again was needed, this time palming over from his own man, Benjamin Whiteman’s miss-hit clearance from Hughes’ left-wing cross flying towards goal until the custodian’s intervention.
Right on half-time, Hughes again went close, this time hitting the post from 30 yards out in a left-hand channel after a quick one-two with Burke; the effort driven across goal, beating Lawlor this time, but coming back off the right-hand upright.
Half-time brought a change by Alex Neil, with Alan Browne returning from injury, replacing Burke in the No.10 position behind Nmecha.
But it was Wilks who had a great chance to double Donny’s lead under two minutes into the second period when he latched onto a short back pass, rounded Crowe, but could only find the side-netting with the empty net waiting.
The Lilywhites were level though on 56 minutes. Daniel Johnson won a corner in front of the Alan Kelly Town End, Gallagher delivered an inswinger to the back post and Hughes rose highest to powerfully head home for his third of the season.
Gallagher then found an over-lapping Darnell Fisher, whose blocked header came out to Daniel Johnson, his shot saved by the back leg of Lawlor. Brandon Barker had just been introduced, also returning from injury and replacing Ryan Ledson and from this same phase of play Barkhuizen won a free kick in a central position, with Gallagher’s effort coming off the top of the wall.
Barker’s introduction allowed Gallagher to move into the middle of the park, alongside Johnson, with Barker out wide on the left and the two combined to see the latter drive with pace into the box and win another corner at half’s mid-point.
However, Doncaster were back in front with 18 minutes to go, Anderson scrambling home from close range after a free kick from the right bounced around in the penalty area before falling to the No.12 at the back post to slice into the net.
Browne was inches away from levelling the tie for a second time with ten minutes to go, meeting Hughes’ well-weighted cross from the left, but it flew inches wide with Lawlor again beaten.
Sean Maguire had returned to the pitch for Nmecha just after Donny’s second and with he, Barkhuizen, Browne and Barker, there was plenty of pace in the PNE front line, all looking for that equaliser.
But it was the League One side who booked their place in the fourth round with three minutes to go when a mix up at the back allowed Wilks to run through and slot into an empty net.
PNE line-up: Crowe, Fisher, Hughes, Ledson (Barker, 60), Storey, Huntington, Barkhuizen, Johnson, Nmecha (Maguire, 73), Burke (Browne, 46), Gallagher (c). Subs not used: Rudd, Earl, Clarke, Woods.
Doncaster Rovers line-up: Lawlor, Andrew, Butler (c), Wilks, Whiteman, Marquis, Crawford (Rowe, 85), Anderson, Kane, Blair, May (Coppinger, 64). Subs not used: Marosi, Sadlier, Horten, Greaves, Lewis.
Attendance: 8,101 (1,308 Doncaster Rovers fans)
Referee: Mr A Davies