Alan Browne’s eighth goal of the season was not enough for North End, as a Jackson Irvine brace gave Hull City the points at Deepdale.
The Australian midfielder gave his side a first half lead, but Browne struck with a superb 25 yards drive just after half-time, until the Hull man won it with a close range header.
Manager Alex Neil was without the suspended Ben Pearson and the injured Louis Moult, but skipper Tom Clarke returned, with Browne and Graham Burke also coming in to the starting XI, whilst Connor Simpson was recalled from his loan at Hyde United on Christmas Day and took his place on the bench.
And despite the numbers problems, the Lilywhites started brightly. On eight minutes Tom Barkhuizen was freed by Andrew Hughes on the left; he checked back onto his right foot and delivered for Lukas Nmecha at the front post, but the Manchester City loanee headed just wide of the left-hand post.
Mid-way through the half, after a sustained period of pressure on the Tigers’ box, the ball came out to Paul Gallagher 25 yards out, whose volley was tipped wide by David Marshall, via the outside of the left-hand post.
But just before the half hour mark City broke down the left and Stephen Kingsley delivered to an unmarked Irvine on the edge of the six-yard box, who headed into the top right-hand corner to put the visitors in front.
There was yet another PNE injury blow, with Ben Davies replaced by Jordan Storey with ten minutes to go in the half, but within seconds came a chance to equalise, as Hughes played the ball into Burke, who chested down into the path of Browne, the Irishman taking it on to 22 yards out and shooting, but Marshall saved well.
Just before the interval Declan Rudd made an excellent save from a Jordy De Wijs header after a cross from Kamil Grosicki from the left.
At the break Ryan Ledson came on, with Burke replaced and the start to the second half was just what the doctor ordered for the home side, as they were level within 90 seconds.
Daniel Johnson had the ball on the left touchline before driving in and finding Alan Browne who had dropped off into space 25 yards out. The No.8 got the ball out of his feet and curled a beautiful shot past Marshall and into the top right-hand corner of the Alan Kelly Town End goal for his eighth of the season – all at Deepdale.
With only five minutes on the second half clock it could have been 2-1. Gallagher had been moved out to the left-hand side with the half-time switch and he got his head on the end of a long ball, flicked on by Nmecha, which beat Marshall, but flashed inches past the right hand upright.
Barkhuizen was the next to force Marshall into a fine save, as a switch to 4-1-4-1 was opening up Hull. His right-footed shot from the edge of the box, pushed around the post and skipper Clarke’s header from Gallagher’s corner just inches wide of the left-hand upright.
Nmecha almost opened his PNE account in stunning style as a cross from the right-hand byline by Clarke was met by a superb acrobatic overhead kick from the young forward, but Marshall did well to hold the well-struck attempt.
The visitors were a threat on the counter and Rudd needed to make a smart low save to his left to push away former PNE loan-man Todd Kane’s shot from Grosicki’s left wing cross with just under 20 minutes left.
And it was Hull who got the game’s third goal. A corner from the left was kept out by Declan Rudd, but Irvine was again on hand to head home at the back post from close range, the Hawkeye goalline technology showing the ball had crossed the line with ten minutes remaining.
Storey headed against the post, via a deflection in the second of four added minutes, another corner following from Gallagher on the right, but North End could not force the equaliser.
PNE line-up: Rudd, Clarke (c) (Fisher, 83), Hughes, Browne, Huntington, Davies (Storey, 35), Burke (Ledson, 46), Gallagher, Nmecha, Johnson, Barkhuizen. Subs not used: Crowe, Woods, Simpson, Walker.
Hull City: Marshall, De Wijs, Stewart, Grosicki (Burke, 90), Irvine, Kane, Bowen (Lichaj, 90), Henriksen (c), Kingsley, Campbell (Martin, 85), Elphick. Subs not used: Long, Dicko, Batty, McKenzie.
Attendance: 14,026 (684 Hull City fans)
Referee: Mr S Duncan