Tyrhys Dolan scored in stoppage-time for the second time in as many matches as the youth team maintained their unbeaten run with a 1-1 draw against Bury.
Aaron Brown had given the visitors the lead after 25 minutes and it looked for long parts as though that would be enough for the three points, but Dolan converted an 93rd-minute indirect free-kick after Bury goalkeeper Jacob Carney was sent off.
Dolan was involved from the very beginning, spreading a fine pass to the left for Ethan Walker who skipped past his marker in the box but shot straight at Carney.
Adam O’Reilly got behind the Bury defence two minutes later as he ran onto Jerome Jolly’s chipped pass, but his penalty appeals were waived away by the referee, after Carney appeared to have brought him down.
Precieux Ngongo nodded wide from a Louis Potts delivery shortly after while Joe Adams lashed the visitors’ first meaningful attempt over the bar.
The Lilywhites should have taken the lead 19 minutes in when Potts flicked a low Walker cross goalwards, his effort well blocked before Jolly placed the rebound over.
Walker drew another save from Carney midway through the half when his dazzling run took him to the edge of the box and his strike for the bottom left corner was tipped wide.
But the game took an unexpected turn when Bury went ahead against the run of play. Their opener came from a move down the left when Adams tricked his way to the byline and pulled it across for Brown, who took one touch before placing low into the net left-footed.
That derailed the hosts’ momentum slightly although there were still chances for an equaliser before half-time, O’Reilly glancing a header wide from Walker’s whipped cross and Adams saw a similarly dangerous delivery flash across the face at the other end.
Another O’Reilly header teed up Potts but he scuffed his volley and Walker then dragged just wide of the far right corner in the closing moments of the half.
Lewis Simmons was booked late in the first half too and it was a similar theme which played out in a fiery second half, but not before some fine saves at both ends, Jimmy Corcoran twice denying Callum Hulme from distance, while Potts drew a reaction save from Carney from closer range.
Jack Baxter also struck just wide with a 20-yard piledriver before Potts was well denied again, his acrobatic volley headed clear off the line.
O’Reilly also went close just after the hour, connecting sweetly with Walker’s cross on the volley but converting wide.
Charlie Lyons and Walker were added to the referee’s notebook as well as Bury substitute Alen Moisin as the game wore on with chances wearing thin, as Walker curled a free-kick over the bar while Adams curled straight at Corcoran.
But a dramatic final few minutes ensued when Carney was sent off for an off-the-ball incident involving Potts and an indirect free-kick inside the box was awarded in the 90th minute.
Three minutes passed before that could be taken, with the visitors forced to introduce sub ‘keeper Mark E. Williams, but the Lilywhites took advantage nonetheless as Walker teed up Baxter to drive it across goal and Dolan got the vital touch at the back post to convert home.
That ensured North End’s youngsters’ unbeaten run remained intact, now stretching to seven games, and manager Nick Harrison was pleased his players fought until the end.
“I thought it was a bit of a scrappy game and a scrappy performance,” he told PNE.Com. “I thought we dominated in terms of possession and the clear cut chances we had, so from that perspective, we thought we should’ve been winning the game anyway.
“We were just missing that final touch, final pass, that final bit of quality to put the ball in the back of the net and I think if we had that, we’d have won the game quite comfortably but we didn’t and that made the game scrappy.
“The goal we conceded just came from a bit of a lack of concentration and we didn’t defend it well individually, but it comes against the run of play.
“We’ve said to the lads at the end that we can think they do better, despite them dominating the game and creating more chances.
“Even though we felt they could’ve done better, they showed great character to keep going and going, we penned them into their half in the second half, certainly into the latter stages of it. And because they kept going, they got their rewards and kept their unbeaten run going.
“I would say it doesn’t make the performance any better but at least they showed that character right until the end to get the equaliser.”
The Academy manager felt the game might’ve followed a different pattern had his side made been awarded a penalty or taken their chances in a particularly dominant opening 20 minutes.
“We probably should have been two or three up by then [when Bury scored]. We played on the frontfoot really well in that first 15 minutes.
“It looked like a penalty from our angle, it looks like he just collides with Adam to take him out but it’s good play from him to get in behind, which we keep stressing to him is a good part of his game – getting into goalscoring positions.
“I think Jerome Jolly knows as a second year scholar that he should score from that position and the game could have been different if we’d have scored those chances. I felt we could’ve run away with it and won convincingly but because we didn’t, it made it a scrappy game.”
PNE line-up: Corcoran; Simmons, Ngongo, Lyons, Armer; O’Reilly, Baxter; Jolly (McManus, 62), Dolan, Walker; Potts. Subs not used: Earl, Cottam, McFayden, Pollard.