Match report: Burton Albion 1 PNE 2
Second-half goals from Tom Clarke and Daryl Horgan gave Preston North End victory over Burton Albion at the Pirelli Stadium.
It was Horgan's introduction as part of a double substitution just after the hour mark which helped turn this battle of a game in North End's favour.
The former Dundalk winger forced the corner from which Clarke was to net the opening goal in the 66th minute.
Horgan then swept home a fine second on the counter attack seven minutes from time, that his first goal of the campaign.
Burton reduced the arrears through Lucas Akins deep into stoppage-time but there was not enough time for it to be more than a consolation.
Alex Neil had named an unchanged starting XI to the one which had featured against Queens Park Rangers the week before.
But there was a positional shift in the back four with Darnell Fisher moving across the pitch to play at left-back, that allowing Clarke to fill the right-back slot - Paul Huntington and Ben Davies in the middle.
The contest's first chance fell Burton's way in the fifth minute as Chris Maxwell dashed out of his box and out towards the home side's left flank to try and clear a ball forward.
Akins got there just ahead of him, clipped it over the keeper and then tried his luck with a shot from a wide angle which hit the side-netting.
Soon after, an Akins header from Matty Palmer's cross looped into Maxwell's gloves.
In the 13th minute, Clarke's cross from the right was met by Jordan Hugill on the volley, the striker's effort hitting a defender and rolling out for a corner.
Paul Gallagher swing the corner out to Pearson beyond the edge of the box, Pearson taking the ball down on his chest before firing a right-foot shot over the bar.
It needed a fine save from home keeper Stephen Bywater to prevent North End taking a 24th minute lead, Fisher's well-struck shot from 25 yards destined for the top corner until Bywater tipped it behind.
There was a scare for PNE when Davies tried to shepherd the ball out of play but Akins managed to stop it on the byline and started to cut inside.
Pearson came across to help out Davies, putting in a challenge on Akins and clearing up field.
A 32nd minute shot inside the box from Will Miller went straight at Maxwell, before North End almost broke the deadlock four minutes before half-time.
After failing to make contact with a cross, Robinson worked his way into space on the right-hand side of the box and hit a low angled shot which Albion right-back John Brayford kicked off the line.
Early in the second half, North End failed to make the most of a free-kick awarded their way after a foul on Hugill - Gallagher and Robinson getting their wires crossed as they tried to work a training ground routine.
Gallagher saw another free-kick, more conventional this time, go over the wall but saved on the line by Bywater.
On the hour mark, Robinson drove into the box but delayed getting his shot away, when he did his right-foot effort was deflected behind for a corner.
Neil made a double change in the 62nd minute, Hugill and Alan Browne giving way to Horgan and Josh Harrop.
Horgan quickly impacted on the game, his curling right-footed cross from the left-wing falling to Barkhuizen inside the six-yard but he miscued badly and saw the ball fly off his foot and well wide.
It was a Horgan shot which deflected off a Burton player and won the corner from which North End took the lead in the 66th minute.
Gallagher swung over the corner from the left, Clarke's header hit a defender and when it fell back into his path he tucked a low shot into the net from six yards.
Maxwell preserved the lead with a fine save to tip an Akins header over the bar but PNE recovered their composure to push on and make the game safe.
Horgan should have scored in the 78th minute when he got clear of the Burton defence but Bywater came out better in the one-on-one with a good block.
The Irishman wasn't to be denied though, finding the net in the 83rd minute to stretch the advantage.
It came on the counter-attack, Barkhuizen seeing a shot on the edge of the box blocked by a defender.
The ball fell to Horgan who steadied himself and swept a fine right-foot finish into the far bottom corner to spark huge celebrations among the Preston fans behind the goal.
Robinson saw a low shot in the first minute of stoppage-time come back off the base of the post as North End looked for a third.
But they were to leave the back door ajar in the 93rd minute as Burton grabbed a consolation goal, Akins scooping a shot from close range into the roof of the net via the underside of the bar following a corner.
North End saw out the dying moments well, Horgan taking the ball into the corner to use up the time on referee Keith Stroud's watch.
Burton: Bywater, Brayford, Turner (Varney 81), Buxton, Flanagan, Naylor, Murphy (Sbarra 71), Miller (Scannel 62), Palmer, Dyer, Akins. Subs (not used): Warnock, Allen, McFadzean, Ripley.
PNE: Maxwell, Clarke (O'Connor 80), Huntington, Davies, Fisher, Pearson, Gallagher, Barkhuizen, Browne (Horgan 62), Robinson, Hugill (Harrop 62). Subs (not used): Boyle, Johnson, Mavididi, Rudd.
Referee: Keith Stroud (Hampshire)