Two goals for Jermaine Beckford and one from Joe Garner gave North End a vital 3-1 win at Meadow Lane.
Beckford fired a superb opener mid-way through the first half, lifting the ball over a defender and firing hard and low past Roy Carroll and then Garner reacted first to a saved Beckford header to double the lead just after the half hour mark.
Jimmy Spencer reduced the arrears with a close range shot with 18 minutes to go, but a bullet of a finish from Beckford, after a one-two with Daniel Johnson, gave the Lilywhites the points to keep them second with two games to go.
It was an unchanged side for the Lilywhites, just Andy Little missing out from the 18 on duty at Port Vale with a niggle, Kyel Reid replacing him on the bench for the yellows.
It was a slow burner in the opening ten minutes, but came to life as a Paul Gallagher free kick from the left was headed down to Joe Garner who was unmarked 15 yards out in the right corner of the box, but the League One player of the year fired just wide of the left hand post.
Six minutes later and Scott Laird burst from left back through three players and into the box, but his shot was straight at Northern Ireland international stopper Roy Carroll.
The scoring started in the 23rd minute and it was a brilliant goal by Jermaine Beckford. The ball was sent forward to Joe Garner who headed down into the path of Paul Gallagher – the No.12 lofted it over the Magpies defence for Beckford who lifted it back over a defender and fired hard and under Carroll and into the net, reminiscent of Paul Gascoigne’s goal for England against Scotland in Euro ’96!
And just after the half hour mark it was two as Joe Garner volleyed home after Tom Clarke’s cross from the right was headed goalwards by Beckford, saved by Carroll, but the 21 goal front man made it 22 as he fired in the rebound - a defender on the line very lucky it went in as he tried to save it and would have been sent off with a red card no doubt following.
The home side had a spell of chances in the last ten minutes of the half, Graham Burke twice stinging the gloves of Johnstone with his left foot from outside of the box, but it remained two going into the interval.
On the hour mark Roy Carroll made a fine save after Paul Gallagher had sent Callum Robinson down the left, he cut inside and fired hard, but the keeper pushed the ball away.
However, with 18 minutes left the lead was reduced as a long ball into the box wasn’t cleared and Jimmy Spencer fired home into the top right hand corner from close range.
A brilliant save from Sam Johnstone with seven minutes left from Garry Thompson kept the lead for the Lilywhites as the home side threw bodies forward in more and more numbers.
But with five minutes to go Jermaine Beckford scored another superb goal. A long ball forward saw Beckford and Johnson play a one-two-one-two before Beckford went into the box in the left corner and rocketed an effort past Carroll into the top right hand corner.
There were four minutes of added time but North End’s game management was excellent as they restricted the home side to long high balls that were dealt with, as another vital three points was recorded.
: Carroll, Smith (C Thompson, 90), Mullins (c), Hollis, Hayhurst (Noble, 46), Spencer, G Thompson, Jones, Burke, Edwards (Bajner, 60), Williams. Subs not used: Pilkington, Wroe, Noble, Lita, Cranston.Notts County line-up
: Johnstone, Clarke (c), Laird, Welsh, Wright, Huntington, Robinson (Woods, 81), Johnson, Garner (K Davies, 90), Beckford, Gallagher (Kilkenny, 80). Subs not used: Stuckmann, Humphrey, Reid, Ebanks-Blake.PNE line-up
: 4,769 (1,244 away fans)Attendance
: Mr C BoyesonReferee