Preston North End brought the 2022/23 campaign to a close with a 3-0 defeat at home to Sunderland.
Both sides had great opportunities in the first half to break the deadlock, with Liam Delap having the best chance of the day for PNE, while Freddie Woodman came up with several good stops to keep the game goalless.
The visitors took the lead, however, on 54 minutes when Amad Diallo found the top corner from range, before strikes from Alex Pritchard and Jack Clarke helped the visitors secure a Play-Off spot thanks to results elsewhere.
There were two changes to the North End XI which included a first start since February for Ali McCann, while Patrick Bauer came in as a late addition after Andrew Hughes pulled out during the warm-up.
It was a blistering start at Deepdale with both sides going at it right from the off, and North End created an early opportunity through Álvaro Fernández who sent a dangerous ball across the face of goal, but Tom Cannon couldn’t quite get a touch.
McCann then had an effort deflected a matter of inches wide in the sixth minute, before Delap came close to heading home just a few moments later.
At the other end, Clarke cut inside from the left for Sunderland and looked to find the far corner, whistling the strike just past the post.
After the visitors had a big penalty shout waved away, Woodman came up with a huge stop for his side, tipping Patrick Roberts’ effort away from the top corner.
Delap then had a massive chance for his second goal in as many games when McCann sent him through one-on-one with Anthony Patterson, but the striker sent his attempt wide of goal.
Joe Gelhardt had a golden opportunity himself a few minutes later when he was played through by Pierre Ekwah, and goalkeeper Woodman stuck out a strong right arm to make an impressive stop at close range.
Three minutes into the second half, the visitors again came close, firstly through Dan Neil who sent a 20-yard strike just wide before Ekwah had a close-range effort kept out by Woodman.
There was nothing the goalkeeper could do in the 54th minute, though, when Diallo took aim from more than 20 yards and bent his effort into the top corner.
North End almost had an equaliser in just a few minutes’ time through Bauer, but Patterson managed to keep his header out from Ledson’s corner.
However, the next goal of the day came at the other end as Pritchard wrongfooted Woodman and found the bottom corner to double his side’s advantage.
It was three just a few moments later when the ball was worked wide to Clarke, who cut inside onto his right foot and curled it into the far corner.
There wasn’t too much in the way of goalmouth action after that point as the Black Cats took all three points to earn themselves a place in the Play-Offs.
PNE line-up: Woodman; Storey, Bauer, Lindsay; Potts, Ryan Ledson, McCann, Fernández; Parrott (Onomah, 55); Cannon, Delap (Woodburn, 69). Subs not used: Cornell, Slater, Leigh, Mawene, Kamara.
Sunderland line-up: Patterson; Gooch (Anderson, 66), Hume, O’Nein, Cirkin (Pritchard, 45); Neil, Ekwah (Lihadji, 86); Roberts, Diallo (Ba, 86), Clarke; Gelhardt (Michut, 73). Subs not used: Bass, Taylor.
Attendance: 21,177 (5,714 Sunderland fans).
Referee: Mr R Madley.