A late second half header from Shaun Hutchinson gave Millwall the points on a wet and windy afternoon at Deepdale.
The Lions man nodded home from close range after Murray Wallace had headed the ball back into the area after a Ryan Wood corner had been cleared and Gary Rowett’s men clung on for the win.
The Lilywhites will feel aggrieved, however, with a stonewall early penalty denied after Tom Barkhuizen had been clipped by Jake Cooper, by referee Tony Harrington.
Manager Alex Neil had made two changes from the side that won at Stoke in midweek; David Nugent coming in to lead the line and Tom Clarke captained from right back with Darnell Fisher not making the 18.
And the home side started the game superbly, dominating the first 20 minutes, but the key penalty incident coming inside six minutes, as Barkhuizen burst into the box from Daniel Johnson’s flick. The No.29 was past Cooper, but had his heel clipped and with the assistant on the right side it looked like he or the referee had to have seen the incident, but neither appeared to and play was allowed to go on.
Two minutes later, with the entire stadium on it’s feet clapping and signing in memory of the late great Sir Tom Finney, PNE put together a great piece of play with Alan Browne sending Barkhuizen down the right; he pulled the ball back for Johnson, who unleashed a shot that was well-saved by Bartosz Bialkowski and Nugent fired the rebound over the bar.
Chances kept coming and on 13 minutes Scott Sinclair picked up the ball from Nugent’s nod down of Clarke’s right-wing cross, but his spin and shot was also straight at the former Ipswich Town ’keeper.
Having soaked up plenty of pressure, the visitors began to come into the game and looked dangerous from set pieces and on 18 minutes Jed Wallace delivered a corner, Cooper rising for a header, but Johnson making a superb block in the six-yard box to deny Millwall from a scramble.
Ten minutes before the interval Patrick Bauer lifted a ball into the area, which was chested down by Sinclair for Barkhuizen in space, but he dragged his right-foot effort wide of the left-hand upright from 12 yards out.
After the break the visitors got in the ascendency and just after the hour mark Welsh forward Tom Bradshaw broke clean through and ran 50 yards, eventually beating Declan Rudd with his effort from the edge of the penalty area, but his shot was against the bar and over.
However, they took the lead with 12 minutes left. Wood delivered an out-swinging corner from the right-hand side, that Andrew Hughes headed clear, but only onto the head of Murray Wallace, who put the ball back in the box and Hutchinson was played onside by a late evictee from the six yard area and nodded home from a few yards out.
Changes were made to the set-up, with Paul Gallagher, Sean Maguire and Josh Harrop all added and Bauer thrown forward in search of a goal in what were wild and torrential conditions that had descended during the second half.
And in the first minute of four added on Barkhuizen was flattened by Cooper 25 yards from goal and Gallagher curled his free over the wall and onto target, but Bialkowski got across to push the shot away from the bottom right-hand corner. In the last seconds there was also another penalty shot with Bauer going down under pressure from substitute Ryan Leonard, but again nothing was awarded and the Lions held on.
PNE line-up: Rudd, Clarke (c), Hughes, Pearson, Bauer, Davies, Barkhuizen, Johnson, Nugent (Maguire, 76), Browne (Gallagher, 65), Sinclair (Harrop, 65). Subs not used: Hudson, Fisher, Rafferty, Stockley.
Millwall line-up: Bialkowski, M Wallace, Hutchinson, Cooper, J Wallace (Smith, 90), Bradshaw (Mahoney, 76), Romeo, Pearce (c), Moulmby, Woods, Bodvarsson (Leonard, 86). Subs not used: Steele, Ferguson, O’Brien, Skalak.
Attendance: 12,468 (724 Millwall fans)
Referee: Mr T Harrington