Preston North End had to settle for a point at home to Bristol City, after the visitors scored a controversial second half equaliser.
The Lilywhites had gone in front just before half-time when the returning Daniel Johnson fired home from Paul Gallagher’s clever free kick routine to give them a deserved lead.
But Robins top scorer Famara Diedhiou poked home whilst a yard offside to draw Lee Johnson’s side level and they held on for a point despite North End’s late pressure.
Johnson returned to the side in midfield, with Ryan Ledson and Darnell Fisher also included; Tom Clarke and Ben Pearson out with injury and suspension, whilst Tom Barkhuizen also dropped to the bench.
But it was a familiar face in terms of chances created early on, with Gallagher the prompter for Alex Neil’s side, his flurry of early corners creating good opportunities, the best of which goalkeeper Niki
Mäenpää – who was substituted through injury in the second half – missed after coming out, but Alan Browne was unable to keep his seventh minute header down and it flashed just over the cross bar from 15 yards out.
But North End went in front three minutes before the interval. Browne was scythed down near the left-hand corner flag, Lloyd Kelly lucky to have only received a caution from referee Jeremy Simpson, but the resulting free kick was excellently worked.
Gallagher shaped to cross, but pulled the ball back to around the penalty spot, which Johnson spun out of the pack and whipped a powerful left footed effort into the top left-hand corner of the City goal to give the team the lead going into the interval.
The first good chance of the second half also came the way of the home team, with Brad Potts on the end of a scintillating one-touch passing move involving Maguire and Gallagher, before goalscorer Johnson reversed a pass from the left to Potts, whose shot was superbly blocked by visiting centre half Tomas Kalas.
However, just after the mid-point of the half the south west side drew level. A corner from the right by former PNE midfielder Josh Brownhill was headed goalwards by visiting skipper Marlon Pack, with Diedhiou sat just two yards out, hooking the ball past Declan Rudd. The Senegalese forward was a yard offside, but the linesman on the Invincibles side, in a perfect position, did not raise his flag.
Bristol City got a boost from the goal and had a good little spell, Rudd required to make a superb save to deny substitute Antoine Semenyo after pull back by Andreas Weimann, the PNE No.1 getting a strong hand to heavy-footed effort, turning the ball around the post.
But it was North End’s trio of attacking substitutes, Tom Barkhuizen, Lukas Nmecha and Jayden Stockley, who created the best chances in the closing ten minutes of the game.
With seven minutes on the clock, Nmecha make an eye-catching 50-yard run, somehow managing to stay on his feet past three tackles aimed to take him out, but as he got into the penalty area, he couldn’t quite get enough on his shot and sub keeper Max O’Leary saved.
But in the final 30 seconds of injury time came the best opportunity to grab the three points at the death, as the ball was well-worked out on the left-hand side, with Andrew Hughes, Ledson and Nmecha eventually working the ball for Barkhuizen to cross to the back post, where Browne rose highest, but his header was agonisingly inches wide of the right-hand upright and the game ended all-square.
PNE line-up: Rudd, Fisher, Hughes, Ledson, Storey, Davies, Potts, Gallagher (c) (Barkhuizen, 74), Maguire, Browne, Johnson (Stockley, 87), Potts (Nmecha, 80). Subs not used: Crowe, Earl, Rafferty, Huntington.
Bristol City line-up: Mäenpää (O’Leary, 65), Webster, Brownhill, Diedhiou, O’Dowda (Semenyo, 53), Weimann, Kelly (Dasilva, 60), Paterson, Pack (c), Kalas, Hunt. Subs not used: Wright, Taylor, Eliasson, Palmer.
Attendance: 12,683 (870 Bristol City fans)
Referee: Mr J Simpson