A near-22,000 crowd was inside Deepdale for the visit of the Wearsiders who five months earlier had won the FA Cup, beating Leeds United 1-0 at Wembley.
That had been a huge shock, a Second Division side getting the better of a Leeds side who were all-conquering at the time.
Managed by Bob Stokoe and ably assisted by former North End coach Arthur Cox, Sunderland were promotion favourites for 1973/74.
Preston had appointed Bobby Charlton as manager that close season, his arrival sparking much interest both locally and nationally.
The season had started as poorly as the previous one had ended, but by the middle of October PNE were on a run of seven games unbeaten under the captaincy of Nobby Stiles. That sequence had seen North End climb to fifth in the table, with Sunderland just two points behind in ninth.
Sunderland began like a house on fire and could well have been two goals ahead in the opening 10 minutes, with efforts from Billy Hughes and Dennis Tueart being cleared desperately from close to the North End goalline.
Attacking the Town End, PNE eventually settled down and began to give as good as they got, going very close to taking the lead following a fine cross from the right by Gordon Coleman.
The ball was met a few yards from the far post by the leaping Gary Williams, whose header rattled the crossbar and flew into touch with Sunderland keeper Jim Montgomery still pawing at fresh air.
In the second half, Neil Young could not quite reach a through-ball when in the clear.
Graham Hawkins had a powerful header saved spectacularly in the top corner by Montgomery, and an Alex Bruce drive from 15 yards went just wide.
Sunderland had the ball in the North End net when Tueart drove a shot home, but Hughes was deemed to be in an offside position.
The ante was upped in the 54th minute when North End were awarded a penalty.
Sunderland were furious with the referee but it was hard to see why.
Young had delivered a superbly weighted through ball for Bruce, who was about to shoot when he was scythed down by full-back Ron Guthrie.
Tueart led the Wearside protests vociferously and was booked for his trouble. Former Manchester City forward Young had to wait an age before being allowed to take the spot kick.
Known for his fierce shot, he launched the penalty into the roof of the net, nearly taking it off its hooks.
Sunderland threw everything into attack in the last 20 minutes, but to no avail.
Their frustration at the North End offside trap and the referee was there for all to see.
The nearest they came was when Tueart burst through down the middle, only for Preston to be rescued by a fine Hawkins interception.
The final whistle brought to a close a cracking, tense, end-to- end game.
Victory moved North End up to third place in the table but alas, things were to go badly wrong. Charlton’s men won only two of their next 12 matches as a slump set in.
In fact, they recorded just nine victories all season and were relegated.
It proved to be a torrid first season in management for Charlton.