A second half free kick from Tom Lawrence was enough to take the points for Derby County at Deepdale.
The Lilywhites missed a chance to go in ahead at the break when Alan Browne found the outside of the post with a penalty he himself had won and despite having 20 shots to the visitors two in the game, it was the Rams who solidified their place in the Play-Off positions.
Two changes were made to the side that had faced Sheffield Wednesday on Good Friday; Chris Maxwell and Greg Cunningham in for Declan Rudd and Josh Earl and it was Alex Neil’s side that dominated from the off.
Chances came at regular intervals for the Lilywhites. Firstly Paul Gallagher saw a shot deflected behind off Tom Huddlestone for a corner and then Browne burst his way through four or five players into the box before his driven shot was blocked for a corner by Alex Pearce.
Just before the half hour mark Sean Maguire played the ball into Callum Robinson around the penalty spot, and the No.37 spun and shot which came off Pearce and out for another corner. And moments later Robinson was denied again as his was shot saved by the legs of Scott Carson when he had been sent through by a Browne hooked pass down the right hand channel.
But with nine minutes to go before the interval there was a key moment in the game as Browne was adjudged to have been brought down in the left hand edge of the box by Andre Wisdom, referee Tony Harrington pointing straight to the penalty spot.
The No.8 dusted himself down and placed the ball, but after a long delay he dragged his shot against the outside of the left hand post.
The home side didn’t let their heads drop, however and had another good chance to take the lead before half-time. Robinson collected from Maguire on the left, drove inside to left hand corner of the box and dragged a shot an inch wide of the right hand post with Carson beaten.
After the interval, the visitors took the lead completely against the run of play. A free kick was awarded for a foul on former PNE striker David Nugent by Tom Barkhuizen and Lawrence’s free kick from 30 yards on a left hand channel went past the wall and into bottom right hand corner, with Maxwell getting a hand to the ball, but unable to keep it out.
It was still North End who were the only team looking to attack. With 20 minutes to go a Gallagher free kick from the right fell to Paul Huntington 15 yards out, but his volley was over the bar.
And it was the same story 15 minutes later when a ball in from substitute Billy Bodin was headed down to Gallagher, but he could only fire over the bar with his left foot.
Bodin himself had a snap shot from 22 yards into the final five minutes, but Carson saved well and held at the second attempt as the visitors held on for the win.
PNE line-up: Maxwell, Fisher, Cunningham (c), Pearson, Huntington, Davies, Robinson (Johnson, 79), Maguire, Browne (Moult, 63), Barkhuizen (Bodin, 73). Subs not used: Rudd, Clarke, Harrop, Earl.
Derby County line-up: Carson, Lawrence (Hanson, 89), Baird, Wisdom, Pearce, Weimann, Vydra (Palmer, 74), Nugent (Jerome, 90), C Davies (c), Ledley, Huddlestone. Subs not used: Roos, Forsyth, Keogh, Thomas.
Attendance: 13,520 (1,448 Derby County fans)
Referee: Mr T Harrington