Match report: PNE 1 Reading 0
Hugill chested down a knock down from Sean Maguire and volleyed home in the 23rd minute, that goal enough to give the Lilywhites their second Championship win of the campaign.
North End could have been more comfortable winners, having created a number of chances.
Ben Pearson, Tom Barkhuizen, Sean Maguire and substitute Stephy Mavididi all had sights of goal during the course of the afternoon.
Reading had plenty of possession but rarely was Chris Maxwell called into action.
Alex Neil had made four changes to the starting XI, Pearson, Josh Harrop, Maguire and Josh Earl coming into the side.
It was a first-team debut for 18-year-old Earl in place of Greg Cunningham who is facing a long spell on the sidelines after surgery to repair a knee injury.
Tommy Spurr, Alan Browne and Callum Robinson dropped to the bench.
North End had far the better of the first half, going close early on when a Harrop corner was flicked on by Earl to Ben Davies, the centre-back's cushioned volley going just over the bar.
In the 11th minute, Pearson won possession deep in the Reading half and drove forward down the centre of pitch, holding off a couple of challenges to arrive in the box and get a shot away, one which too close to keeper Vito Mannone who managed to block.
Pearson, returing after his red card at Leeds last week, went into referee Andrew Madley's notebook soon after for a challenge on Leandro Bacuna.
Preston took a 23rd minute lead, Barkhuizen chasing a goal kick from Maxwell down the left channel.
He recovered from taking a heavy first touch and lifted a cross over to the far post, Maguire climbing to nod in down to Hugill who controlled the ball on his chest before slamming a right-foot shot into the net.
Reading were forced into two substitutes in the first 34 minutes, John Swift and Liam Kelly going off with injuries.
The visitors' best chance of the half was a header from substitute Joseph Mendes, one which Maxwell dived to his right to save.
North End came close to doubling their advantage three minutes into first-half stoppage time, Harrop's ball over the top of the Reading defence freeing Daniel Johnson down the right.
DJ got into the box and cut the ball back to Maguire whose powerful right-foot drive was pushed out by Mannone, with Barkhuizen putting the rebound too high.
Barkhuizen forced Mannone into a save five minutes into the second half, the ball sitting up for him nicely on the edge of the box to hit a right-foot shot, one which bounced across goal and Mannone fumbled behind.
In the 54th minute, North End broke swiftly on the counter-attack, Maguire's pass finding Barkhuizen who burst into the box.
As a defender stepped across him, the ball rolled to Hugill who couldn't keep his shot on target at the far post.
Barkhuizen, who made a much greater impact in this game than he had done so far this season, tested Mannone with a low shot which the keeper dived to save.
Maguire, Johnson and Hugill all had shots blocked in quick succession by defenders in the box during a spell of pressure.
In the 75th minute, Maguire's pass picked out Hugill on the overlap to the right of him, Hugill's cross finding Barkhuizen at the far post but he was unable to make a clean connection and put the ball wide.
Reading saw a lot of the ball in the final stages but never really threatened Maxwell in the North End goal.
Two minutes into stoppage-time, Alan Browne's pass sent fellow sub Mavididi clear but the Arsenal loanee put his shot too close to Mannone who dived to save.
PNE: Maxwell, Fisher, Huntington, Davies, Earl, Pearson, Johnson, Maguire (Mavididi 88), Harrop (Browne 72), Barkhuizen (Robinson 85), Hugill. Subs (not used): Vermijl, Spurr, O'Connor, Hudson.
Reading: Mannone, Gunter, McShane, Moore, Blackett, Bacuna, Kelly (Mendes 34), Popa, Swift (Evans 24), Barrow, Clement (McCleary 68). Subs (not used): Beerens, Ilori, Quinn, Jaakkola.
Referee: Andrew Madley (West Yorkshire)
Attendance: 11,174 (374 away)