Simon Grayson’s men made it back-to-back wins thanks to Joe Garner’s second half penalty at Deepdale.
The frontman won the spot kick and then smashed it home into the top left corner against managerless Reading, adding their eighth clean sheet in ten games.
North End were unchanged in terms of personnel, but changed to a 4-3-3 formation, allowing Adam Reach a forward role, alongside Garner and Keane.
And it was the on loan Boro man who almost opened the scoring – in fact he was probably a lick of paint away from doing so.
A ball forward by skipper Tom Clarke was well brought down by the head of Joe Garner and Reach collected the ball before dancing past two Royals defenders and hitting an effort with the outside of his left foot past Jonathan Bond but coming back out off the inside of the right hand post and away for a goal kick.
The Lilywhites, playing towards the Town End in the opening period attacked for the majority of the opening 25 minutes, with the visiting skipper Paul McShane blocking Daniel Johnson’s goalbound effort from the edge of the box after Will Keane’s superb control and lay off in the box from Gallagher’s low ball in from the right.
Five minutes before the break Paul Gallagher took a free kick from 25 yards out which whipped over the wall, but into the arms of Bond after a foul had been given for a rugby tackle on Garner by Garath McCleary, who was booked for the incident.
The only effort on target from Martin Kuhl’s side in the first period came just three minutes before the break when a Matej Vydra shot from 18 yards out hit the back of Greg Cunningham and went out for a corner.
In the opening 90 seconds of the start some brilliant play by Marnick Vermijl forced a save from Bond and in the follow up Adam Reach saw Bond twice deny him from ten yards out; the second a brilliant stop and from the corner North End should have been awarded a penalty as Garner was pulled back by McShane as he was about to slot home after a ball had fallen at his feet, Paul Huntington eventually smashing a half volley just over the bar and into the Reading fans in the Kop.
On 52 minutes Garner broke after a misjudgement by Paul McShane; he charged into the box on the left hand side and in his attempt to prevent his mistake costing a goal McShane brought down Garner and earned a penalty.
The No.14 himself stepped up and smashed the spot kick into the top left hand corner to give the Lilywhites a deserved lead.
On the hour mark Adam Reach went close again to opening his account for North End, a driven left foot effort coming back off his own man – Garner – after a well worked free kick on the right gave the No.32 the chance to cut in a shoot.
On 65 minutes a real let off for North End as Nick Blackman showed a clean pair of heels to the defenders and was one on one with Pickford, but with the goalkeeper staying big the forward shot early, hard and over the cross bar from 25 yards.
With 20 minutes left the Garner-Gallagher combination was evident again as the latter delivered a left hand channel free kick into the box for the front man, who met the ball powerfully, but inches wide of the left hand post.
Matej Vydra, always lively tested Pickford from the edge of the ‘D’, the North End No.1 palming wide for a corner – which Tom Clarke dealt with.
The expected ‘kitchen sink’ from Reading in the closing stages didn’t come and North End ran out the additional three minutes comfortably to record another valuable three points.
: Pickford, Vermijl, Cunningham, Browne, Clarke (c), Huntington, Keane, Johnson, Garner, Gallagher (Welsh, 86), Reach. Subs not used: Kirkland, Wright, Kilkenny, Doyle, Woods, Hugill.PNE line-up
: Bond, Gunter, Taylor, Williams, McShane (c), Ferdinand, Norwood, McCleary (Fernandez, 75), Vydra, Blackman, Robson-Kanu (John, 55). Subs not used: Al-Habsi, Hector, Hurtado, Cooper, Barrett.Reading line-up
: 10,649 (506 away fans)Attendance
: Mr G EltringhamReferee