Queens Park Rangers came from one-nil down to Daniel Johnson’s penalty to take the points at Deepdale.
The visitors, who finished the game with ten men after the sending off of Geoff Cameron took the win with second half strikes from Grant Hall, Ryan Manning and Ebere Eze.
Johnson had converted from 12 yards after Darnell Fisher had been upended in the box in an opening period that the Lilywhites dominated, but after two half-time changes by Mark Warburton, the Rs scored from the only three shots they had on goal in the game.
PNE manager Alex Neil had made two changes, with David Nugent and the injured Brad Potts replaced by the returning Paul Gallagher and Josh Harrop.
But it was Sean Maguire who almost got the game off to a flyer as Johnson sent him down the right with a ball over the top, the Irishman driving into the penalty area and drilling a low shot past Liam Kelly, but it came off the left-hand post and was cleared to safety.
But they deservedly took the lead just before the 20-minute mark. A superb 50-yard cross-field ball from Gallagher released Tom Barkhuizen – who was a constant threat in the opening period – and he fed Fisher’s overlap into the box, who was brought down by Marc Pugh, giving referee Dean Whitestone an easy decision.
Johnson stepped up after quite a long delay and coolly squeezed his left-footed penalty into the bottom right hand corner, just past the fingertips of Kelly, who had chosen the right direction to dive.
They continued to press, looking for a second, dominating possession, but without creating any clear-cut opportunities, going into half-time.
But at the break the visitors made two changes that affected the game, Pugh and Dominic Ball replaced by Ilias Chair and Luke Amos and QPR had more possession in the middle of the park.
And they got back on level terms in the 61st minute. Ben Davies was adjudged to have brought down former team-mate Jordan Hugill on the right and Eze delivered a free kick to the back post when Hall managed to get in front of his man poke into the bottom left corner.
But within 90 seconds a key moment in the game that could have changed it in North End’s favour. A Fisher free kick on half-way was drilled over the top of the Rangers defence to where Maguire had made a superb run, and lofted a header over Kelly, which dropped agonisingly against the bar. The Irishman had then followed it in, but the bounce back off the crossbar was just too high and he was unable to control and nudge it into the goal.
At the half’s mid-point Warburton’s side went down to ten men when Cameron received a second yellow card – which in all honesty could have been a red on its own – for a tackle, above the ankle, on Fisher.
The Rs went in front for the first time with 11 minutes to go as Manning picked up a ball on the left corner of the penalty area and curled a left-footed shot that went over everyone and came off the underside of the bar and into the top right corner.
Just before he was replaced, Josh Harrop stung the hands of Kelly with a shot from the left corner of the penalty area at the other end after a knock down from earlier substitute Jayden Stockley.
The frontman was then controversially involved in what led to the London side’s third goal. A ball in from another change, Ryan Ledson, was towards Stockley, who was charged through in the area for what looked like a stonewall second penalty of the game for PNE, but the match officials saw nothing and QPR boke.
They charged up field via Bright Osayi-Samuel, who then fed Eze down the left, who checked back inside and curled a right-footed shot into the bottom right-hand corner from the edge of the penalty area to complete the win.
PNE line-up: Rudd, Fisher, Hughes, Browne, Bauer, Davies, Barkhuizen (Sinclair, 81), Gallagher (c) (Stockley, 73), Maguire, Johnson, Harrop (Ledson, 81). Subs not used: Ripley, Rafferty, Huntington, Nugent.
QPR line-up: Kelly, Hall (c), Cameron, Pugh (Chair, 46), Hugill, Eze, Ball (Amos, 46), Manning, Osayi-Samuel, Rangel, Barbet. Subs not used: Lumley, Kane, Shodipo, Oteh, Clarke.
Attendance: 12,378 (613 QPR fans)
Referee: Mr D Whitestone