Comeback kid Thorsten Stuckmann kept a clean sheet as Preston North End beat League One leaders Bristol City 1-0 at Ashton Gate.
PNE boss Simon Grayson’s bold decision to drop goalkeeper Jamie Jones paid off as Stuckmann kept City’s 18-goal stellar strike force of Aaron Wilbraham and Kieran Agard at bay.
The match was the German shot-stopper Stuckmann’s first start since North End played Crawley Town in April 2013 and he rewarded Grayson’s faith with a clean sheet.
Callum Robinson’s 28th minute tap-in sealed victory as PNE bounced back from three successive league defeats.
Third-placed North End closed the gap on City to two points but star striker Joe Garner was brought off at half-time after taking a knock to his shin.
North End signed Jermaine Beckford on-loan from Bolton on Thursday but despite being named on the bench the former Leeds striker did not feature.
Scott Wiseman returned to the starting XI in place of Jack King who moved to the bench.
And John Welsh is Grayson’s third change to the side that lost 2-1 to Bradford City last Saturday as Alan Browne missed out due to a hamstring injury.
Bristol City’s top scorer Wilbraham missed a golden opportunity to open the scoring in the ninth minute. The striker rounded Stuckmann but blasted the ball wide of the left hand post with an empty goal to aim at.
City keeper Frank Fielding comfortably saved Garner’s header in the 11th minute.
And the former Blackburn keeper was called into action again in the 18th minute as he palmed away Paul Huntington’s fierce header.
But North End finally dented the scoresheet in the 28th minute after a brilliant run by wing wizard Humphrey. The Jamaica international sprinted towards the back line and put the ball on a plate for an unmarked Robinson to gobble up at the back post.
Robins striker Agard tried to latch on to a bouncing ball in the box but he was denied by the advancing Stuckmann.
And minutes later North End nearly doubled their advantage as Garner pulled the ball back for an on-running Robinson. But the on-loan Aston Villa forward’s 14-yard shot fizzed comfortably into Fielding’s arms in the 38th minute.
North End’s top scorer Garner was replaced by Kevin Davies at half-time after he picked up a few knocks in the first 45.
But it was Bristol who upped the ante after the break as just 30 seconds into the half Agard found space in the box. But the striker miscued his strike and the ball trickled through to Stuckmann.
Agard was denied in the 50th minute by Huntington’s superb last-ditch tackle. The striker sprinted into the box and Huntington timed his tackle to perfection as he slid in and stole the ball from Agard’s feet.
Welsh found himself in the book for a foul on Marlon Pack in the 61st minute.
City upped the tempo and nearly scored after a string of corners saw them camped in North End’s half. Aden Flint should have scored as he rose up to meet Luke Freeman’s corner but the defender’s powerful header flew inches over the bar in the 64th minute.
The near miss revitalised PNE and veteran striker K Davies nearly doubled their lead moments later but his shot was saved by a diving Fielding.
Pack tried his luck from distance in the 79th minute and his fierce strike made Stuckmann scramble towards his left hand post but the ball flew wide.
City threw everything at PNE in the dying minutes, keeper Fielding joined the attackers in the North End box for a City corner but the Lilywhites managed to hold on and secure three points.
PNE: Stuckmann, Wiseman, Clarke, Humphrey (King, 74), Kilkenny, Gallagher, Garner (K Davies, 46), Buchanan, Welsh, Huntington, Robinson. Subs not used: Jones, Laird, Beckford, Reid, Brownhill.
Bristol City: Fielding, Little (Emmanuel-Thomas, 70) Williams, Flint, Smith, Freeman (Kane, 70), Wilbraham, Agard, Pack (Reid, 85), Ayling, Bryan. Subs not used: Richards, El-Abd, Wagstaff, Cunningham.
Attendance: 13425 (away 904)