Match report: Preston North End 2 West Bromwich Albion 3
Preston North End went down to a fourth Championship defeat on the bounce as they were beaten by West Bromwich Albion at Deepdale.
After displaying a good shape and discipline about their play in the first half, things unravelled for the Lilywhites after the interval.
They fell behind in the 48th minute to a header from Jay Rodriguez, which for a while knocked them out of their stride.
North End drew level 19 minutes from time through Andrew Hughes' first goal for the club, the left-back curling a free-kick low into the net.
But their habit of conceding soon after scoring reared its head again, the visitors regaining the lead within two minutes of Hughes' goal.
It owed much to a big slice of bad luck, Craig Dawson's cross hitting PNE centre-back Ben Davies on the top of the head and looping into the far side of the goal.
Dwight Gayle's 88th minute free-kick effectively put the contest beyond the hosts but Preston did manage a second goal in stoppage-time - Alan Browne nodding home from close range after former PNE loanee Sam Johnstone had parried a Louis Moult shot.
North End have lost all four league games since the last international break as well as exiting the Carabao Cup on penalties.
Defeat left them on the bottom of the table ahead of Tuesday night's visit to Aston Villa.
Alex Neil had made two changes to the side which had started the midweek cup clash with Middlesbrough, Tom Clarke and Tom Barkhuizen dropping down the bench.
Darnell Fisher and Davies returned as North End lined-up in a 3-5-2 system, Davies teaming-up with Paul Huntington and Jordan Storey at the back.
Brandon Barker played up front with Callum Robinson, with Fisher and Hughes providing the width as wing-backs.
It needed a fine early save from Chris Maxwell to stop PNE falling behind, an Albion corner having been headed across goal by Ahmed Hegazi.
The ball came to Kyle Bartley five yards out, his header tipped over the bar by Maxwell who flung himself backwards to reach it.
North End went close themselves in the 12th minute, the width of the woodwork preventing them taking the lead.
Robinson's corner from the right had been headed out of the box, Browne chasing it and squaring a pass to Ryan Ledson, the midfielder's first-time shot from 18 yards hitting the foot of the post.
Maxwell was in action again after a quarter of an hour, dashing off his line to block a shot from Harvey Barnes who had got behind the North End back line after playing a one-two with Gayle.
Hughes stretched to get his foot to Huntington's flick from a cross but was unable to get it on target, while Robinson pulled a shot wide of the near post after slipping past a couple of challenges to get into the box.
After North End's disciplined work in the first half, they lost focus as Albion took the lead less than three minutes after the interval.
The visitors had already had an early second-half sighter by then, Gayle firing over the bar with a shot from the edge of the box.
Jake Livermore was afforded too much time and space to lift the ball into the box, Rodriguez stealing ahead of his marker to send a well-placed header beyond Maxwell.
Soon after that, Robinson's afternoon came to a premature end when a jarred knee - sustained in the early moments of the second half - forced him off, Barkhuizen coming on.
At the hour mark, Barker slipped past a challenge and hit a low shot from 25 yards which skidded just wide of the target.
North End appealed for a penalty when Browne went to ground under Bartley's challenge as he chased Pearson's pass into the box, but referee Tony Harrington waved play on.
Mr Harrington was more accommodating when he awarded a free-kick on the edge of the box from which Preston pulled level in the 71st minute, Pearson having been brought down.
Hughes took it, curling the ball low round the wall and into the far bottom corner for his first goal in a PNE shirt.
But the lead lasted only two minutes or so, the pattern of conceding soon after scoring a feature of Preston's game in recent weeks.
There was a huge amount of bad luck about this one though, CDawson's cross from the right-wing hitting Davies on the top of the head and looping high over Maxwell into the far corner.
Albion got their third goal in the 88th minute, Browne having given away a free-kick 25 yards out for a shirt tug - Gayle stepped-up to lift it over the wall and beyond the dive of Maxwell.
A late rally saw North End grab a consolation in the sixth minute of stoppage-time.
Substitute Josh Harrop's pass played in fellow sub Louis Moult to the left of goal, Moult getting a shot away which Johnstone dived to parry.
The ball fell towards Browne who headed the ball over the line from close range.
After that, a long throw-in from Barkhuizen caused an anxious moment in the Albion box for the visitors before the ball was eventually cleared.
PNE: Maxwell, Storey, Huntington, Davies, Fisher (Harrop 88), Pearson, Ledson, Browne, Hughes, Barker (Moult 77) Robinson (Barkhuizen 53). Subs (not used): Earl, Clarke, Johnson, Rudd.
WBA: Johnstone, Dawson, Bartley, Hegazi, Mears, Livermore, Barry (Robson-Kanu 71), Gibbs, Barnes (Brunt 73), Rodriguez, Gayle (Field 90). Subs (not used) Edwards, Hoolahan, Adarabioyo, Myhill.
Referee: Tony Harrington (Cleveland)
Attendance: 14,099 (3,192 away)