Lewis Grabban’s second-half spot-kick handed improving Nottingham Forest a vital 1-0 win at Preston that took them out of the Championship relegation zone.
Forest are now unbeaten in five games, though there was a hint of controversy surrounding the match-winner as Grabban appeared to slip as he took his penalty, with a suggestion that he may have hit the ball twice.
Preston may feel aggrieved as their three-match winning streak was ended.
Chris Hughton’s side opened purposefully at a bitterly cold Deepdale.
Sammy Ameobi saw an early 20-yard strike blocked, then Anthony Knockaert missed a terrific opportunity, as he clipped an effort disappointingly over the top from just eight yards after connecting with a Cyrus Christie cross.
With some snow still on the pitch, conditions were clearly tricky underfoot, but Forest continued to look the more dangerous of the two sides heading into the second quarter of the game.
That said, neither goalkeeper was being tested, with the momentum of the game almost non-existent.
Preston finally made some inroads just as the game was about to enter added time at the end of the first half.
The hosts threatened when Darnell Fisher nodded the ball into Ryan Ledson’s path, only for his strike to be bravely blocked by Forest’s alert defender Tobias Figueiredo.
Seconds later, North End skipper Daniel Johnson found himself in a good amount of space just outside the Forest box, but he appeared to scuff his shot slightly and it proved to be a comfortable save for Brice Samba.
Johnson limped his way through to half-time, while it was Forest who registered the final opportunity of the first period when Cafu fired a half-volley over the top.
Preston threatened first after the restart, as Tom Barkhuizen robbed Ameobi close to the half-way line and charged forward, before seeing a 25-yard drive narrowly clear the crossbar.
In the 51st minute Barkhuizen met a deflected cross from Johnson, powering in a close-range header which was brilliantly palmed behind by Samba.
Preston were now pushing hard for an opener, and Barkhuizen turned an angled shot against the crossbar after he had been smartly teed up by Brad Potts.
At the other end Forest went close on the hour mark when Ameobi crashed a shot over after Cafu’s corner-kick had not been cleared.
Forest took the lead from the penalty spot in the 70th minute.
Grabban beat Declan Rudd after North End full-back Fisher had got his arm in the way of Cafu’s goal-bound toe-poked effort, with referee Tim Robinson unmoved despite later suggestions it may have been a double touch from the Forest skipper.
Potts volleyed just off target as Preston sought an immediate response to conceding their first goal in four matches, before Ben Davies then thumped the crossbar from 12 yards following a neat turn in the 81st minute.
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