Sheffield Wednesday punished misfiring PNE as they triumphed 3-1 at Hillsborough.
It was a lacklustre first half but Wednesday broke the deadlock on the stroke of half-time.
Fernando Forestieri’s neat back heel teed-up Kieran Lee who slotted the ball under Jordan Pickford.
A rare slip-up from John Welsh allowed Wednesday to double their lead as his clearance fell to Daniel Pudil who fired home in the 54th minute.
PNE fought back as Daniel Johnson’s corner found Tom Clarke at the back post and Alan Browne pounced on his knock-down to make it 2-1.
The Lilywhites tried to find an equaliser but it was Wednesday who bagged an injury time goal.
The host’s broke from a PNE corner and substitute Lewis McGugan spotted Pickford off his line and elegantly chipped the keeper in sublime fashion to seal a 3-1 win.
Paddy McCarthy’s debut was a short-lived affair as he was subbed off after picking up a knock in the 10th minute.
The enforced substitution saw Chris Humphrey slot in at right back and Calum Woods move into the middle.
The opening 30 minutes were a quiet affair as both teams enjoyed spells of possession but lacked the final pass to threaten up front.
May won a free-kick after he was upended by Jack Hunt but he smashed the subsequent set-piece straight into the wall.
Wednesday’s Tom Lees headed the ball over the bar and should have done better after he leapt high unchallenged.
Nuhui had the first real chance of the game in the 31st minute as he spun and shot but his strike took a deflection off a PNE player and looped wide.
Daniel Johnson nearly picked out May with a sublime ball over the top but the striker just missed the ball by a whisker and it trickled through to Keiren Westwood.
But Wednesday took the lead on the stroke of half-time as Fernando Forestieri out-foxed the PNE defence with a neat first-time back heeled pass to tee-up Lee in space in the box and he coolly slipped the ball under Pickford.
Wednesday made a lively start to the second 45 and could have doubled their lead just three minutes in but Lees nodded wide from the host’s quickly taken short corner.
Pickford made yet another incredible save to deny Barry Bannan as the midfielder tried his luck from distance. The England U 21 shot-stopper managed to tip the ball away. The rebound fell to Forestieri but Woods managed to deflect his strike wide.
And Wednesday finally doubled their lead after a period of pressure in the 54th minute. John Welsh and Johnson went for the same ball on the back line and Welsh’s clearance hit Pudil who fired the ball home. Nuhiu slid in at the back post and looked to have got the final touch but the goal was awarded to Pudil.
Former Wednesday players May and Keane were replaced by Doyle and Hugill.
The substitutes made an impact as Hugill headed over and Doyle headed wide within minutes of coming on.
Cunningham headed over another good Reach cross as North End looked to find a way back into the game.
And North End finally got that all important goal as Browne smashed the ball home. Johnson whipped a corner to the back post and Clarke nodded the ball back into the mix where Browne was on hand to fire home in the 76th minute.
The goal inspired PNE and Doyle nearly levelled in sensational style but his fierce 25-yard strike just fizzed over the bar in the 81st minute.
Clarke was booked for a foul on Lee just outside the box but Wednesday could only hit the side netting from the subsequent set-piece as Lewis McGugan curled the ball round the right post.
Johnson was booked for dissent as North End pushed up and tried to bag an equaliser.
Five minutes extra time was added on but it was Wednesday who threatened again. Bannan got the better of Humphrey on the left and his cross fortuitously fell to Turner who drove into the box but Pickford was on hand to pull off another fine stop.
But Wednesday sealed the game in injury time as they broke away from North End’s corner and McGugan chipped Pickford.
Sheffield Wednesday: Westwood, Turner, Hutchinson, Nuhiu (Joao, 67), Lees, Lee, Hunt, Wallace (McGugan, 67) Pudil, Bannan, Forestieri (Lopez, 85). Subs not used: Wildsmith, Loovens, Wiggins.
PNE: Pickford, Woods, Clarke, McCarthy (Humphrey, 10), Cunningham, Reach, Browne, Welsh, Johnson, Keane (Doyle, 55) May (Hugill, 55). Subs not used: Kirkland, Kilkenny, Gallagher, Heaton.
Referee: Andy Woolmer (Northamptonshire)