Goals from Greg Cunningham and Liam Lindsay gave the Lilywhites a tremendous derby day victory over Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park.
The Irish full back started his first game since his return to the club and scored a stunning strike, before Lindsay headed home Ryan Ledson’s corner.
A dubious Adam Armstrong penalty just before half-time narrowed the deficit, but an excellent rear-guard display from Alex Neil’s men in the second half led them to a 2-1 victory over Tony Mowbray’s side.
The manager had made four changes before the game, reverting to a 3-5-2 formation, with Cunningham and returning club captain Alan Browne as the wing backs, plying very high up the pitch.
Jordan Storey also came into the side, as part of the three-man defence, flanking Lindsay and Andrew Hughes on the opposite side, whilst Tom Barkhuizen partnered Ched Evans – who won the Sky man of the match for another fantastic display leading the line – in attack.
The opening part of the game saw the greens with plenty of the ball and when they grabbed the opener, on 19 minutes, it was thoroughly deserved.
Browne switched play from right to left, with his fellow Irishman controlling perfectly to allow him to drive to the left corner of the penalty area, before drilling an arrow-like shot with his left foot into the bottom right-hand corner of Thomas Kaminski’s goal.
They should have had another great chance to double the lead just four minutes later, when Ched Evans was seemingly brought down in the penalty area by Sam Gallagher, but referee David Webb waved away the claims.
What resulted, however, was two corners, both delivered expertly by Ledson. The first saw Storey first to it, but his header was deflected wide and the second was headed back across goal by Hughes, but just away from Evans.
A deserved second arrived two minutes before the break though, as another Ledson delivered from the left corner flag was met in the six-yard box by Lindsay, getting between a Rovers defensive sandwich, to nod into the bottom left-hand corner.
It looked like they would go in at the break with a two-goal advantage, but in the first of three added minutes Andrew Hughes was very harshly adjudged to have brought down Gallagher, assistant Phil Dermott giving it, with the match official waiting for the flag man to make the decision.
Armstrong stepped up and Daniel Iversen went the right way, but it was too powerful and into the bottom right corner.
However, the stopper was needed in the final minute of the half when Bradley Dack found the goalscorer, who struck at goal with the outside of his boot and looked to have found the bottom left corner, until the Leicester City loan man made a superb one-handed stop to dig the ball out.
The second half saw the home side with more of the ball, but without Iversen having any saves to make - in fact it was Kaminski who was the busier of the two ’keepers, with three good chances falling the way of North End.
Just after the interval Barkhuizen drove forward and found Daniel Johnson in a central position 18 yards out, but his shot from the edge of the penalty area came off home skipper Darragh Lenihan and out for a corner.
Just before the hour mark Cunningham nicked the ball off Everton loanee Jarrad Branthwaite in the middle of the pitch and sent Barkhuizen through in a left-hand channel. His effort beat Kaminski, but was narrowly wide of the right-hand post.
Emil Riis and Brad Potts replaced Johnson and Barkhuizen and the two introductions both went close to sealing the points.
With 13 minutes left Potts sent the Dane through on goal down the left, he did extremely well to check inside, putting the ball through Branthwaite’s legs. The defender was beaten and clipped the striker’s heels, but the PNE No.19 stayed up and shot, seeing Kaminski save with his legs. If he had gone down it would have been a clear penalty, but his honesty saved the Rovers No.30.
The last few minutes were frantic. Potts broke right at the heart of the Blackburn defence and with Riis and Evans on either side of him, saw a shot deflected wide and from the resulting corner they had the ball in the net, when again the No.44 got a shot on target, it coming ff Evans and flying into the bottom right corner, but again they were denied when Mr Dermott’s flag went up.
The five and half minutes of injury time saw a lot of hopeful balls forward, into and around the North End penalty area, but some heroic efforts from the defensive unit saw Iversen not called into action and they took the win.
Blackburn Rovers line-up: Kaminiski, Nyambe (Elliott, 62), Armstrong, Rothwell (Downing, 46), S Gallagher (Harwood-Bellis, 75), Douglas, Davenport (Dolan, 46), Dack, Lenihan (c), Travis (Brereton, 87), Branthwaite. Subs not used: Pears, Elliott, Bell, Buckley, Corry Evans.
PNE line-up: Iversen, Storey, Lindsay, Hughes, Browne (c) Whiteman, Ledson, Cunningham, Evans (Molumby, 90), Barkhuizen (Riis, 76), Johnson (Potts, 76). Subs not used: Ripley, van den Berg, Gallagher, Rafferty, Huntington, Sinclair.
Referee: Mr D Webb