Tom Clarke was the North End match winner as the Lilywhites scored in the last minute to take all three points at the Cardiff City Stadium.
The North End captain headed home from close range after fellow defender Paul Huntington’s header from substitute Josh Harrop’s corner had been pushed away by home goalkeeper Neil Etheridge and it was no more than the yellows deserved from a game they dominated against the high-flying Bluebirds.
In the early minutes it was evident the pace of Tom Barkhuizen was a major threat for the yellows, twice getting in good positions just outside the home side’s penalty area, but not quite finding Hugill and Horgan respectively with his final ball.
As the game grew close to half-time the visitors saw a Paul Gallagher free kick just outside the box come off the wall. It only fell as far as Jordan Hugill, however, and his shot seemed to come off the hand of Sol Bamba. The ball was recycled and Hugill saw a shot blocked for a the game’s first corner, but it was the handball that was the real talking point as the game’s mid-point drew near.
The home side were penned into their own half for much of the first period, but right on half-time a quick counter attack saw Kenneth Zohore free Lee Tomlin, but the returning Greg Cunningham made an excellent recovery run to block the midfielder’s attempted shot.
On the hour mark North End again went close. A long throw from Barkhuizen causing problems in the Bluebirds penalty area, with the ball eventually falling to Horgan, whose snap shot was blocked by Ecuele Manga for a corner. Gallagher’s delivery was met by skipper Clarke, but the ball squirted through a crowd of players and to safety for Neil Warnock’s side.
Harrop and Callum Robinson were introduced to add a further attacking intent to the Lilywhites’ output midway through the second half, with Gallagher and Horgan replaced.
Into the fonal 15 minutes and North End were denied by a brilliant Bamba tackle. Barkhuizen raced down the right and into the box, getting a shot away that Etheridge pushed out, but Hugill and Bamba slid in, the home captain just getting in a block to deny the PNE top scorer.
From the resulting Harrop corner, Clarke’s header came off the back of Zohore to take it over the bar and then Huntington met another cross by the No.10, but this time straight at the City ’keeper as the pressure built by Alex Neil’s men.
And the goal their play deserved finally arrived in the final minute. A corner was conceded as Hugill tied to find Robinson in the box. Harrop delivered and Paul Huntington’s header looked like it might have crossed the line, but play continued as Etheridge pushed it away but Clarke was there to head into goal and run away to the PNE fans who were in raptures.
There was six minutes of added time played, in which Chris Maxwell had to get down low to make a fine save from substitute Rhys Healey, but it was the away side who took the three points, to do the double over their Welsh opponents.
Cardiff City line-up: Etheridge, Peltier, Ecuele Manga, Tomlin (Healey, 76), Ralls, Zohore (Bogle, 83), Feeney (Hoilett, 64), Bamba (c), Paterson, Mendez-Laing, Damour. Subs not used: Murphy, Pilkington, Halford, Connolly.
PNE line-up: Maxwell, Clarke (c), Cunningham (Woods, 84), Pearson, Huntington, Davies, Gallagher (Harrop, 68), Barkhuizen, Browne, Hugill, Horgan (Robinson, 69). Subs not used: Rudd, Woods, Welsh, O’Connor, Mavididi.
Attendance: 17,751 (372 PNE fans)
Referee: Mr J Linington