Goals from Tom Barkhuizen, a Callum Robinson brace and a penalty from substitute Paul Gallagher gave the Lilywhites a thumping derby victory over Paul Cook’s Wigan Athletic.
Barkhuizen’s second goal of the season, squeezing a shot under Christian Walton on 17 minutes, set the ball rolling, with Robinson doubling the lead just after the break in a crazy opening few minutes to the second half that also saw Darron Gibson given a straight red card for a high tackle on Ben Pearson.
Gallagher converted from the spot after the excellent Lukas Nmecha had been upended and then Robinson poked home returnee Sean Maguire's left wing cross, as Alex Neil’s men got the result they deserved from a thoroughly professional performance.
The manager made three changes to the side that drew with Villa in midweek, Ledson and Huntington missing out with knocks, with Tom Clarke, Jordan Storey and Daniel Johnson – so influential in the Villa Park comeback – coming into the XI.
And after a cagey start the Lilywhites went ahead just after the quarter hour mark. Robinson had the ball on the left of the penalty area, before clipping it across – via a deflection – for Browne on the penalty spot. The Irishman held the ball up and laid it to the right of the box where Barkhuizen drilled it through the legs of the Latics No.1 and into the back of the net.
Into the last five minutes of the half and a really controversial moment took place. Nmecha was sent clean through on goal and brought down, for what would be a clear penalty and red card for Cedric Kipre, but referee Lee Probert sees and gives nothing.
Then in the fourth of five minutes of added time it was almost 2-0 as Nmecha again went at the Wigan defence, took on substitute Dan Burn, went past him before playing the ball out to Robinson on the left-hand side of the box, who dropped a shoulder, but dragged a left foot shot inches past the right-hand post.
The start of the second half was chaotic, as the game changed in the opening few minutes. Firstly, some great play by North End saw Johnson play Andrew Hughes in down the left, the Welshman pulled the ball back for Browne on the penalty spot and the No.8 controlled and fired on goal, but hit the underside of the bar, came down and was less that a couple of millimetres away on the Hawkeye goalline technology from making it 2-0.
But the Lilywhites weren’t to be denied a second just 90 seconds later as Browne fed Barkhuizen on the right, he got close to the byline before pulling the ball back to Johnson 15 yards out. He cleverly moved the ball to his left, where Robinson was on hand to drill the ball into the bottom left hand corner.
And before the hour mark the visitors were down to ten men. Nemcha, who was a handful for the Wigan backline all afternoon, held the ball up superbly, sent Pearson away down the left, only for the midfielder to be taken our thigh high by Gibson, who was given a straight red card by referee Probert.
With six minutes to go, North End finally got their penalty and it was won by Nmecha, brought down around the spot after substitute Gallagher had lofted the ball to the front man around the penalty spot. Gallagher stepped up, with his usual back to the goal routine, ran up and smashed the ball down the middle to make it 3-0.
Maguire came on for his return and looked lively on the right side of the front three in the closing stages, to add a further boost to what was a positive afternoon at Deepdale and it was him that set up the fourth, driving down the left and drilling the ball in for Robinson to flick home with the outside of his foot from close range.
PNE line-up: Maxwell, Fisher, Hughes, Pearson, Clarke (c), Storey, Barkhuizen (Maguire, 75), Johnson (Gallagher, 75), Nmecha, Browne, Robinson. Subs not used: Rudd, Earl, Davies, Moult, Barker.
Wigan Athletic line-up: Walton, A Robinson, Gibson, Morsy (c), Grigg, Windass (McManaman, 69), James, Jacobs (Garner, 69), Kipre, Dunkley, Powell (Burn, 45). Subs not used: Jones, Byrne, Roberts, Evans.
Attendance: 15,280 (3,831 Wigan Athletic fans)
Referee: Mr L Probert