A first half free kick from Wayne Rooney gave Derby County a 1-0 win at Deepdale, despite the Lilywhites' intense pressure.
The club’s 5,000th game was marked pre-match as EFL chairman Rick Parry made a presentation to the club, accepted by Lilywhites chairman Craig Hemmings.
But the Lilywhites were left frustrated in the opening period despite having the better of the play and were once again left aggrieved by the match officials’ decisions at key moments.
Declan Rudd had made a good save from Martyn Waghorn in the early minutes, but controversially, on 18 minutes, Paul Huntington was adjudged to have fouled Dominic Sibley – when replays clearly showed it should have been the other way!
But Rams skipper Rooney showed his class as he curled a free kick up and over the wall and back down into the bottom left hand corner of the goal to make it 1-0.
The work-rate, passing and pressing game of Alex Neil’s side was excellent and five minutes after the opener former Derby man David Nugent went down the left and fed the ball into Brad Potts – the two of them some of five changes made to the starting XI – and the No.44 pulled the ball back for Alan Browne. His shot was going wide, but he was completely upended by a very late challenge in the aftermath by Matthew Clarke, which looked another clear penalty, only to be waved away by Jarred Gillett, the Australian referee.
Rudd made another good save from Duane Holmes, who shot from 20 yards out with 15 minutes left in the first half, but the home side went in behind at the interval.
The second half saw North End again in the ascendency, dominating possession, with Sean Maguire, Tom Barkhuizen and Josh Harrop all added to the attacking options to try and get back on level terms.
Jayden Stockley replaced Ben Pearson, as the attacks continued for North End, with more and more vigour, with the pace of Barkhuizen and Maguire off the flanks, getting plenty of balls into the box looking for the No.20.
The opposition dropped deeper and deeper and added defensive reinforcements in the shape of Curtis Davies and Craig Forsyth to deal with the bombardment of attacks that were incessant from the Lilywhites.
The closing minutes saw corners coming and balls into the box, with Chris Martin doing defensive duties and not those at the other end of the pitch to keep his side ahead.
Six minutes were added on by the officials and the attacks came coming, Barkhuizen winning another corner with a block and in the final seconds Stockley looked to have been bundled over in the penalty, but a corner came with Rudd forward and the ball from Harrop found the goalkeeper’s head, but it flashed over the bar and the Rams held on.
PNE line-up: Rudd, Rafferty, Hughes, Pearson (Stockley, 77), Huntington, Davies, Potts, Gallagher (c) (Harrop, 73), Nugent (Maguire 60), Browne, Sinclair (Barkhuizen, 73). Subs not used: Ripley, Fisher, Ledson, Bauer, Bodin.
Derby County line-up: Hamer, Waghorn, Clarke, Evans (C Davies, 82), Holmes (Martin, 65), Lowe, Rooney (c) (Malone, 90), Bogle (Forsyth, 65), Knight, Sibley (Shinnie, 64), Bird. Subs not used: Roos, Jozefzoon, Whittaker, Hector-Ingram.
Referee: Mr J Gillett