Memory match: PNE v Latics
Preston's supporters sensed promotion was very much within their team's grasp after witnessing a terrific 1-0 victory over Wigan at the DW Stadium on April 4, 2000.
A large and vocal away following in a healthy crowd of nearly 16,000 made the short trip along the M6 for the crucial Second Division encounter.
The Latics themselves were very much in the promotion picture but they were sunk by a single Michael Jackson strike after just 17 minutes.
North End went on to be crowned champions at the end of the season, while the Latics reached the play-off final only to lose 3-2 to Gillingham at Wembley.
The visitors began the game on the front foot and opened the scoring just after the quarter-hour mark , although the goal came courtesy of a huge blunder by Latics star Neil Roberts.
A Paul McKenna’s free-kick 25-yards out was deflected wide of the target.
From the resulting corner, Rob Edwards played a one-two with Bjarki Gunnlaugsson before firing over a cross to the back past.
Under no pressure at all, Roberts got his clearance horribly wrong and headed the ball back into the dangerzone where defender Jackson hooked the ball over Wigan goalkeeper Roy Carroll into the corner.
Manchester City loan man Terry Cooke had the home side’s first effort on goal when he weaved his way down the right, but his shot lacked power and failed to trouble Tepi Moilanen in the North End goal.
PNE skipper Sean Gregan then headed on to the roof of the net from Graham Alexander’s free-kick from the right after Iain Anderson had been brought down just outside the penalty area by Jean-François Péron.
Gunnlaugson then curled a shot over the bar from 20 yards after a North End counter- attack, instigated by McKenna, put the home side on the back foot.
Anderson then spurned a golden opportunity when great build-up play between himself and Mark Rankine put him through on goal but Carroll raced out of his goal to block the shot.
On the stroke of half-time, Simon Haworth had the home side’s clearest opportunity when he broke free inside the penalty area.
However, his shot was tipped around the post by Moilanen and from the resulting corner Arjan de Zeeuw’s header was tipped over the bar by the big Finn.
After the break, North End continued to press in search of the second goal and Jon Macken should really have done better but he steered his shot straight at Carroll.
Cooke then almost took advantage of a piece of Moilanen indecision but he couldn’t direct his header on target.
Wigan pushed forward towards the final whistle, but North End’s defence held firm to register a vital victory much to the delight of the hordes of travelling supporters.
Speaking at the end of that season, both manager David Moyes and skipper Gregan revealed the win over Wigan was perhaps the first moment when they thought the title was theirs.
“The massive win was when we beat Wigan,” said Gregan.
“Bristol Rovers got beaten and that meant we went seven points clear.”
Moyes added: “Going to Wigan and winning 1-0 – that was a big achievement. I thought then if the players can overcome that hurdle, they can overcome anything.”