A Paul Gallagher goal mid-way through the second half gave the Lilywhites a much-deserved win against high-flying Hull at Deepdale.
The North End No.12 made a superb run to smash home from 12 yards out after Daniel Johnson’s clever free kick from the right hand side was perfectly set up for him, to give Simon Grayson's team a 1-0 victory and three valuable points.
Paul Huntington was ruled out for the Lilywhites, with Alan Browne also still sidelined; John Welsh and Bailey Wright came into the side from the one that faced Huddersfield Town on Boxing Day.
It was one-way traffic in the first half with North End putting in a very positive, front foot performance, and will have been disappointed not to have been out of sight by half-time.
They started with a chance for Boxing Day goalscorer Adam Reach, who fired over with a right footed effort after Will Keane and Daniel Johnson had shots blocked following a long throw in from Marnick Vermijl by the right hand corner flag.
The attacks continued with a through ball from Paul Gallagher into Keane, in behind; the loanee checked back, played in Joe Garner only for Harry Maguire to block the goal-bound shot for a corner.
It was only 15 minutes in and a trip of chances had come and gone as Garner fired goalwards from 30 yards only to see the effort palmed away by Allan McGregor and then on the follow up the ’keeper again stopped Reach from 20 yards, the ball heading towards the bottom right hand corner, gathered at the second attempt by the Scottish international.
The best of the first half chances came just seconds later as a brilliant run from Vermijl down the right hand side saw the Belgian drive along the byline and pull it back to Garner on the edge of the six yard box, but the No.14 fired over the bar.
Just before the half hour mark Keane picked up a loose ball across the defence by a Hull defender and raced into the box, but dragged his shot just wide of the left hand upright.
The visitors came out with more purpose, clearly with ears ringing after Steve Bruce’s half-time words and half-time substitute Tom Huddlestone had their first shot on target three minutes into the latter period, forcing Jordan Pickford to get down low to his right to palm the ball behind for a corner.
Just after the hour mark Will Keane was scythed down by Curtis Davies 25 yards from goal. From the resulting free kick Paul Gallagher’s effort clipped the wall, flat-footing McGregor, but flying just inches over the right corner of post and bar.
North End kept pressing and got their just rewards on 66 minutes. With his daughter’s picture on the screen, celebrating her 11th birthday, a brilliant free kick from Daniel Johnson on the right hand side on the box – after a foul on Joe Garner – was pulled back for a looping run for Paul Gallagher, who slammed home from the penalty spot, running towards his daughter and family to celebrate a deserved goal.
It was almost two with eight minutes remaining, Adam Reach’s effort after Johnson’s cross had been punched away, headed off the line by Harry Maguire.
In the final minute of stoppage time the visitors won a corner and sent the ball goalwards, only for John Welsh to clear off the line - epitomising a superb display from the midfield man - and giving the Lilywhites the points their performance wholeheartedly deserved.
: Pickford, Vermijl (Woods, 89), Cunningham, Welsh, Clarke (c), Wright, Gallagher (Brownhill, 78), Johnson, Keane, Garner (Hugill, 90), Reach. Subs not used: Kirkland, Kilkenny, Doyle, Davies.PNE line-up
: McGregor, C Davies, Meyler (Huddlestone, 46), Snodgrass, Clucas, Maguire, Livermore (c), Maloney (Diame, 71), Akpom (Hernandez, 63), Robertson, Elmohamady. Subs not used: Jakupovic, Taylor, Hayden, Diomande.Hull City line-up
: 13,891 (1,733 away fans)Attendance
: Mr P BankesReferee