PNE 1 Barnsley 0
Gallagher fired home from 12 yards out into the bottom right hand corner after John Welsh had been upended when bursting into the box after a corner had failed to be cleared by the Barnsley back line.
Thorsten Stuckmann earned his corn with a superb full stretch save in injury time, but North End were well worth the points that made it eight games unbeaten in their final home game of 2014.
Manager Simon Grayson was forward to make one change to the side that defeated Peterborough United the previous Saturday, Scott Wiseman ruled out through illness, Calum Woods returning for the first time since mid-September.
The crowd was swelled for the traditional festive fixture, but the were nearly shocked as the visitors had a gilt-edged chance to open the scoring.
On five minutes Leroy Lita slammed wide from 12 yards out after Luke Berry’s pull back from the right hand side, after the midfielder had burst from midfield and pulled back well for the former Swansea man.
North End’s first good chance came on ten minutes as a clever PNE free kick came in from a right hand channel, Paul Gallagher clipped it in to Jermaine Beckford, but his header was straight at Adam Davies from 12 yards out.
Shortly after another opportunity came to the on loan No.9 as he latched onto Kevin Davies’ clever flick and volleyed just over the right hand corner of post and bar.
The lead came a quarter of an hour in. The Lilywhites won their first corner and Gallagher swung it in, the ball was only cleared as far as John Welsh, who burst into the box before Berry upended the midfield man with referee Paul Tierney having no hesitation to point to the spot.
Gallagher, in front of the Barnsley fans – having missed the first of his career at the same end versus Shrewsbury Town, stepped up and slotted the ball into the bottom right hand corner sending the keeper the wrong way.
At the half’s mid-point Beckford received the ball on left hand side of the box; he twisted, turned and saw a shot deflected for a corner. From the cross – an inswinger from Gallagher – it was met by Scott Laird, but his flick header was over the bar and out.
The same two combined well on the left shortly after though, resulting in a shot from Laird which was well saved by Adam Davies but only to namesake Kevin whose reaction effort was over the bar.
With ten minutes left in the half Laird battled his way down the left and pulled the back to Kilkenny whose shot was blocked for another PNE corner.
On the stroke of half-time a brace of PNE corners came after Gallagher’s shot was deflected and the latter saw Kilkenny deliver, but as Tom Clarke’s header came back off the bar the referee’s whistle blew for a foul by the Lilywhites’ skipper.
Seven minutes after the break and it could have been two as Gallagher drove at the heart of the Barnsley defence and then played a channel ball to Beckford on the left of the box, he had time and space, but tried to lift the ball over Davies, but only put it straight into his hands.
Scott Laird was again at it at the near post from another Gallagher corner just before the hour mark, but Davies read it well and got across to claim.
Calum Woods showed his pace on his return with a blistering run down the right before unleashing a shot that Nyatanga could only block for a corner on 64 minutes.
North End made a double change with ten minutes left, Hayhurst and Little on for Beckford and goalscorer Gallagher.
As the game went into the start of four minutes of stoppage time Thorsten Stuckmann was at full stretch to turn Conor Hourihane’s 25 yard blistering shot round the post for a corner as North End held on for another win and another clean sheet.
PNE line-up: Stuckmann, Woods, Laird, Kilkenny, Clarke (c), Huntingtin, Humphrey, Welsh, Beckford (Little, 80), K Davies, Gallagher (Hayhurst, 81). Subs not used: Jones, Buchanan, King, Brownhill, Browne.
Barnsley line-up: A Davies, Berry, Nyatanga, Hourihane, Hemmings (Oates, 67), Jennings, Ramage, Smith, Holgate, Bailey (Williams, 56), Lita (Trotta, 78). Subs not used: Dibble, Digby, Abbott, Cowgill, Trotta.
Attendance: 13,793 (1,409 away fans)
Referee: Mr P Tierney