Preston ended a four-match losing streak in the Championship with a 2-1 victory over fellow promotion contenders Fulham as both sides ended the contest with 10 men.
Sean Maguire handed the Lilywhites the lead at Deepdale before Fulham’s Denis Odoi was shown a straight red card for an aerial challenge on Patrick Bauer.
Joe Rafferty also saw a straight red before half-time for a high challenge, before David Nugent scored his first Preston goal since returning to the club after the break.
Fulham’s Aleksandar Mitrovic halved the deficit late on with his 16th strike of the campaign, but the Lilywhites climbed back into the play-off spots as the Cottagers remain in third.
Fulham marksman Mitrovic had sight of goal inside three minutes, turning on the edge of the box to spin past Bauer and fizz off target.
Alan Browne was unable to capitalise fully on Alfie Mawson’s slip, but from the resulting corner Fulham failed to clear their lines and Maguire fired in on the turn to give the home side a 23rd minute advantage.
Paul Huntington was not far away from doubling Preston’s lead with a looping header two minutes later.
But the Cottagers were reduced to 10 men when Odoi was shown a straight red card for a poor aerial challenge on Bauer before the half-hour mark where he appeared to catch the German with his shoulder.
Veteran Nugent almost unleashed a free Maguire around 10 minutes before the break, while Marek Rodak was quick off his line to deny Preston’s goalscorer after a defence-splitting Billy Bodin pass.
But the Lilywhites themselves went a man down when Rafferty saw a straight red just before the break for a high boot on Fulham substitute Joe Bryan.
The home side doubled their lead six minutes after the restart when Rodak parried Brad Potts’ shot to Nugent who tangled with Mawson but tucked away the loose ball at the second time of asking.
The woodwork denied a sublime effort from Stefan Johansen with 18 minutes remaining as Fulham went close to halving the deficit.
Josh Onomah placed a low effort from just outside the box inches wide as the closing stages beckoned and Mitrovic darted into the penalty area only to curl off target.
Serbia international Mitrovic grabbed one back for Fulham with eight minutes left after a deflected effort crept into the bottom corner past Declan Rudd.
Preston substitute Josh Harrop fizzed a shot across goal before full-time and Rodak denied a first time effort from Tom Barkhuizen as the Deepdale side looked for a third.
Mitrovic’s free kick under the Preston wall deep into injury time was claimed by Rudd and Rodak denied Maguire at the other end.
Get the best features, fun and footballing frolics straight to your inbox every week.
Thank you for signing up to Four Four Two. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.