Preston North End beat Port Vale to progress to the next round of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy and record their fourth victory on the bounce.
Goals from Chris Humphrey, Joe Garner and Paul Gallagher secured PNE’s path to the last eight of the Northern Section, the difference between the sides perhaps not as close as the scoreline would suggest.
Humphrey gave the hosts a 14th minute advantage, one which they held until early in the second half when Tom Pope equalised for Vale.
The lead was restored by Garner in some style, his 63rd minute chip from 20 yards inch-perfect.
Gallagher netted a Humphrey centre from close quarters to make it 3-1 in the 70th minute.
But a late header from Pope cut the deficit and meant that North End had to hang on for their win.
There had been five changes made to the North End starting XI by Simon Grayson.
Thorsten Stuckmann, Kyel Reid, John Welsh, Jack King and Paul Huntington came into the side.
Scott Wiseman and Alan Browne, who started last Saturday’s 4-2 win over Colchester, were missing as they were on international duty.
Jamie Jones and Josh Brownhill moved to the bench, with Bailey Wright left out of the squad to rest a groin injury.
For Stuckmann, Huntington and Welsh, it was their first appearances in the side since the first-round win over Shrewsbury a month ago.
North End kept to their 4-2-3-1 shape, with Tom Clarke at right-back, King and Huntington in the middle and David Buchanan on the left.
Welsh and Neil Kilkenny anchored the midfield, Gallagher playing further forward of them, with Humphrey and Reid on the wings.
A low key opening to the game saw bits and pieces around the edges of both penalty boxes but no chances of any note.
That changed in the 14th minute as PNE opened the scoring, both wingers involved in picking the lock.
Reid got room on the left-wing and put over a low centre which evaded the Vale defence and came to Humphrey on the far side of the box.
Humphrey brought the ball under control, checked inside a defender on to his left foot and shot low into the far bottom corner.
A better connection from Welsh would have seen him double the advantage six minutes later.
But he rather scuffed a side-foot shot after getting on the end of a Humphrey cross and saw it travel just wide of the far stick.
Reid delivered a corner from the right to the front post, Clarke steaming in to meet it but was not to able to keep his header down and it flew over the bar.
A volley from Garner hit Richard Duffy full in the chest and bounced behind for a corner, then Gallagher drove in a low bouncing shot from 25 yards which Vale keeper Chris Neal got his body behind to save.
In the first half Stuckmann was untested bar a couple of crosses to collect, the back four protecting him well.
Just before the interval, space opened up for Kilkenny to have a shot from distance, Neal diving to hold at the second attempt.
The visitors started the second half with much more conviction than they had shown in the first period.
A couple of early corners signalled more intent and they equalised in the 51st minute after winning a free-kick down the inside-right.
Chris Lines delivered it into the box, Pope holding off King’s challenge to steer a header down past Stuckmann and inside the post.
Welsh was a whisker away from quickly restoring the lead, his first-time shot from 20 yards flashing just the wrong side of the target.
Then Reid tricked his way in from the wing and tried his luck with a curling shot which Neal dived to save.
At the other end, Louis Dodds got behind the PNE defence but a shot over the bar as Stuckmann raced off his line to close him down.
North End regained their advantage in the 63rd minute with the most accurate of finishes from Garner.
Humphrey and Gallagher worked the ball inside from the right-wing, Gallagher’s pass finding Garner lurking just outside the box.
He had a quick look up before producing the finest of chips which arced over Neal and dropped down into the net.
Within seven minutes the Lilywhites notched their third goal, Humphrey the architect and Gallagher applying the finishing touch.
Humphrey drove down the side of the box towards the byline and whipped over a low cross with plenty of pace on it which Gallagher bundled over the line from a couple of yards out.
The assist was the last contribution of the evening for Humphrey who was replaced by Jack Ryan.
A slalom run by Reid was halted by a crude challenge from veteran midfielder Michael Brown on the edge of the box.
Gallagher hit the resulting free-kick with plenty of power, it travelling inches too high of the bar.
A double change eight minutes from time saw Josh Brownhill and Lee Holmes join the action in place of Welsh and Gallagher.
It was a first appearance of the campaign for Holmes after recovering from a torn pectoral muscle suffered on the first day of pre-season training in July.
Brownhill chanced his arm with a shot from 25 yards in the 87th minute which Neal had to dive back and tip over the bar.
Vale reduced the arrears in the 89th minute, Carl Dickenson’s cross from the left finding Pope at the far post who planted a downward header past Stuckmann from six yards.
It made for a nervous finale, the fourth official signalling five minutes of added time, but North End saw it out.
Right at the death, Garner broke clear down the inside-left channel but blazed his shot wide of the target.
PNE: Stuckmann, Clarke, Huntington, King, Buchanan, Welsh (Brownhill 82), Kilkenny, Gallagher (Holmes 82), Humphrey (Ryan 71), Reid, Garner. Subs not used: Anderton, Jones.
Booked: Gallagher 41, Garner 78
Port Vale: Neal, Yates, Zubar, Duffy, Dickenson, Birchall (Williamson 71), Brown (Moore 82) Lines, Marshall, Dodds, Pope. Subs not used: Robertson, Daniel, Johnson.
Booked: Zubar 29, Dickenson 64, Brown 80
Referee: Peter Bankes (Merseyside)
Attendance: 3,836 (286 away)