North End were denied what would have been a deserved three points by a 96th minute equaliser from Fulham at Craven Cottage.
And the Lilywhites were left questioning the decision after only five added minutes had been signalled by the fourth official, leaving Alex Neil and his team frustrated after an impressive display on the banks of the Thames.
Jordan Hugill had opened the scoring with his sixth of the season, before a decisive deflection from Sean Maguire’s heel after a Tom Barkhuizen effort had given the men in green a two goal lead.
An Oliver Norwood penalty had given the Cottagers a lifeline, but they looked to run out of time until a long ball into the box fell at the feet of Denis Odoi, who calmly found the bottom corner of the empty net.
Ben Pearson returned for his first game in six weeks, with Calum Woods in for the suspended Darnell Fisher, and the former was at the heart of the high press that saw North End dominate the first half hour.
However, the opening goal came after the hosts had just been denied with their best chance of the first half. Pacy young left back Ryan Sessegnon got down the wing and drilled a ball into the box. Chris Maxwell pushed the ball out but only as far as Northern Irishman Norwood, who fired on target, the Welsh stopper denying him as well, Floyd Ayite firing over the bar from 15 yards out.
But within a minute the visitors found themselves in front. Pearson was at his forceful best in the middle of the park to nick the ball and feed Sean Maguire on the left; he drove into the box before reversing a pass to Jordan Hugill, who converted smartly from 12 yards out.
It could and perhaps should have been two four minutes later when Alan Browne played a clever one-two with Daniel Johnson, the Irishman sent one on one in the box with home ’keeper David Button, but the former Brentford man got down well to deny the PNE No.8.
The wait for the vocal 1,700-plus fans who had made the trip to the west side of the capital for the second didn’t last long though, as it was 2-0 on 25 minutes.
Tom Barkhuizen cleverly collected a header inside from Sessegnon and lofted the ball into the right wing position, before cutting inside the box onto his left foot, drilling a shot goalwards, which took a decisive deflection off the heel of Maguire, which took the ball past Button.
The two sides traded good chances before the break, Kevin McDonald forcing Maxwell to save low to his right after a lay back from Stefan Johansen to the edge of the box and at the other end Browne having a shot deflected for a corner after Josh Harrop’s pull back – the former Manchester United man having come on for Maguire on the half hour mark, the Irish international suffering a hamstring problem after his assist and goal.
As was perhaps expected, Slavisa Jokanovic’s men came out with a different intensity after the break and they were close to halving the deficit just before the hour mark, McDonald hitting the base of the right hand post from 25 yards.
But the best of the chances were still falling the way of the green’s. On 62 minutes, pressure forced a break when Barkhuizen won the ball in the air and fed Daniel Johnson, who drove forward and found Harrop, but the No.10 couldn’t take full control and steered the ball wide from 15 yards.
Shortly after Josh Earl ran from the half way line wining three 50/50 tackles on route and then drove towards the box, before passing to Harrop once again and this time he forced a fine save from Button, who turned the ball behind for a corner.
Somewhat against the run of play Fulham grabbed a goal, but it took a penalty to do it. Rui Fonte was adjudged to have been brought down by Calum Woods in the left hand corner of the box, with referee Darren England pointing to the spot. Norwood stepped up and fired into the bottom right hand corner, sending Maxwell the wrong way.
After the goal the home side had a lot of possession without creating a lot of clear cut chances. The best of them came two minutes from the end of normal time when the ball was thrown into the box from the left by Cairney and Odoi headed into the six yards box, but Norwood, sliding in with Paul Huntington could only slice wide, taking out Maxwell as he slid in towards the line.
Five minutes was signalled by fourth official Simon Hooper and it looked like the Lilywhites had seen it out well, as Callum Robinson cleared down the right hand side as time ticked over, but referee England allowed play to continue and as Maxwell came to claim a long ball into the box, it fell at the feet of Odoi, who poked the ball into the bottom left hand corner from the edge of the box, breaking PNE hearts.
Fulham line-up: Button, Sessegnon, Odoi, McDonald (c), Kebano (Cairney, 46), Johansen (Mollo, 71), Fonte, Ayite, Ream, Norwood, Kalas. Subs not used: Bettinelli, Soares, Graham, Djalo, Cisse.
PNE line-up: Maxwell, Woods, Earl, Pearson (Welsh, 59), Huntington (c), Davies, Barkhuizen (Robinson, 71), Johnson, Hugill, Maguire (Harrop, 30), Browne. Subs not used: Hudson, Vermijl, Boyle, Mavididi.
Attendance: 18,435 (1,736 PNE fans)
Referee: Mr D England