Manager David Moyes made a risky move in November 2001... but boy did his gamble pay off.
After suffering a neck injury earlier in the week, it came as a surprise to many when David Healy lined up for North End against Stockport County.
But, declared fit, the Ulster man proved to be quite the pain in the neck himself as he ran riot in the first half.
In just 26 minutes he found himself on the score sheet three times, recording his first hat-trick since the age of 11.
Completing the ‘perfect’ trio – scoring with his left foot, right foot and head – he set North End well on their way to recording their biggest league win in six years.
The game didn’t start well for the home side, as keeper Tepi Moilanen was forced to leave the pitch after just six minutes with a muscle strain.
If rock-bottom and managerless County thought this was the kind of luck they needed they couldn’t have been more wrong.
Just five minutes after the incident the Northern Irish international began to run wild.
His first goal came after a neat one-two between Paul McKenna and Jon Macken, which left Macken free to run into the box.
Leaving two County players on their backsides, he drew keeper Tim Flowers in before squaring for Healy who shot into the bottom right corner.
His second goal was less straight forward, and resulted in a double blow for Stockport – two goals down and reduced to 10 men.
When Graham Alexander fell to the floor, he shielded the ball before scooping it forward. Healy connected, and striding toward goal he fired fired past the ex-England international goalkeeper with ease.
Stockport players crowded referee Howard Webb, claiming that Alexander had handled in the run up to the goal.
Incensed by Webb’s decision, Stockport midfielder Jason Van Blerk slapped Alexander across the face, earning himself a straight red.
After that, it was merely a case of keeping count of the goals.
Healy showed courage to complete his hat-trick, darting in bravely to connect with an Alexander cross at the far post.
But Healy had already done enough to earn himself a standing ovation when he was substituted in the 53rd minute, replaced by Richard Cresswell.
Minutes later, North End increased their lead. Alexander won the ball on the left and curled in a cross which was met by Chris Lucketti who rose higher than anyone else. 4-0.
Substitute Cresswell got in on the action, scoring his third goal in as many games with a shot on the turn. 5-0.
And the rout was completed in the 83rd minute when McKenna had time to pick his spot from the edge of the area, placing the ball in the bottom right corner.
For the sixth time that day, a dejected Flowers was forced to pick the ball out of the net as Preston recorded their eighth win in 12.
Not a bad day at the office.