Goals from Ched Evans on his return from injury and Emil Riis gave North End a comeback victory over Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium.
Paddy McNair had headed the home side into a half-time lead, but substitute Evans’ header from Ben Whiteman’s corner and then Riis’ blistering left-footer gave Frankie McAvoy’s men all three points in the north east.
After a positive start for North End, played on the front foot and dominating the ball early on, skipper Alan Browne flashed a ball across the six-yard box from the left.
The home side came into the game and PNE required a Josh Earl header to prevent an effort from Matt Crooks from 20 yards hitting the target, the deflection taking it wide for a corner.
On 23 minutes came the first of two massive shouts for a North End penalty, as Riis went racing through, past three men, leaving Sol Bamba in his wake, but was pushed to the floor by Marcus Tavernier; Andy Woolmer though was quick to wave away the strong claims for a spot kick.
Ten minutes later the hosts went ahead. A corner on the left by Boro skipper Jonny Howson was met powerfully by McNair eight yards out, the ball flying in off the top left corner of the bar.
Five minutes before half-time came the second of those big moments for the visitors and another huge shout for a penalty. This one looked a stonewall shout as Earl danced inside Bamba into the penalty area and completely wrong-footed him, taking the ball away from the former Cardiff man, before having his legs taken from under him, but again appeals were waved away.
In the final moments of the half, a top-drawer save from Daniel Iversen kept things at 1-0 going into the interval, as he tipped a 20-yard effort from Duncan Watmore over the bar for a corner.
Five minutes into the second half and the home side were very close to a second as Lee Peltier went on an overlap on the left, took the ball from Marc Bola, checked inside and fired a vicious drive that came back off the underside of the crossbar and eventually away to safety, following a clearance by Earl.
Evans made his return to the side for Maguire eight minutes into the second period, joining Riis in attack, but it was McNair who had the next effort on target, with a free-kick on 64 minutes – inside the ‘D’ – that Iversen got two hands to, to deny the international’s effort, before the Dane also denied on-loan Norwich man Onel Hernandez, who had come on at the same time as Evans.
North End had a good spell of pressure at the half’s mid-point, culminating in Tom Barkhuizen’s effort coming off the head of Crooks and behind for a corner, the team’s first of the night. A double change followed, with Scott Sinclair and Daniel Johnson entering the action for Barkhuizen and McCann.
This meant a change in formation for North End, in an attempt to get back into the game and the change brought chances, as firstly Evans sent van den Berg down the right, finding Riis, who drilled the ball across, only for it to be cut out for a corner.
And from that corner came the equaliser. A deep cross from Ben Whiteman found Evans 15 yards out and he rose highest and powered a header over everyone into the top right-hand corner of the goal to make it 1-1 with 12 minutes left.
And the game was turned on its head four minutes later. Johnson went down the right and tried to find Sinclair, but the ball made its way to Bamba, who tried to clear, but hit McNair’s heel and the ball fell to Riis on the left of the box. He checked back inside and drilled a vicious left-footed effort into the top corner of the goal, giving Luke Daniels no chance, his 12th goal of the season.
Four minutes of time were added on by the match officials, which was played entirely in the Middlesbrough half as the Lilywhites managed it superbly, winning a host of corners and free-kicks to run the time down to secure the three points on Teesside.
Middlesbrough line-up: Daniels, Tavernier, Sporar, Peltier (Ikpeazu, 83), Howson (c), McNair, Watmore (Hernandez, 53), Bamba, Crooks, Bola, Jones. Subs not used: Stojanovic, Dijksteel, Taylor, Lea Siliki, Coburn.
PNE line-up: Iversen, van den Berg, Bauer, Hughes, Barkhuizen (Sinclair, 72), McCann (Johnson, 72), Whiteman, Earl, Browne (c), Maguire (Evans, 53), Riis. Subs not used: Hudson, Cunningham, Lindsay, Ledson.
Attendance: TBC (405 PNE fans)
Referee: Mr A Woolmer