Beyond the hour mark of this clash played in a London monsoon, the Lilywhites had it in the bag.
They led 2-1 from the first exchanges of the second half and bossed the next quarter of an hour or so – all that was missing was a third goal.
Then it all went wrong, an effort which Queens Park Rangers had ruled out for offside should have acted as a warning sign.
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That warning wasn’t heeded, the hosts equalising with a soft goal from a set play.
Worse was to follow as PNE made a pig’s ear of defending a QPR counter-attack and shipped a third goal from which there was no return.
It had been 46 days since they last lost, two wins and five draws in Championship action up until Saturday.
Throw in two victories in the Carabao Cup and it was a steady, if unspectacular run, North End had going.
It is a sequence which can be looked upon in different ways – no wins in six in the league now or a first defeat in eight Championship outings.
Over the full season which pauses now for its second international break, it’s two league wins in 11.
PNE will resume action a week on Saturday in 18th place, going into a key period which starts with two home games before the big derby clash at Blackpool.
As a spectacle, this offering at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium was a thoroughly entertaining one.
Five goals, 30 shots, 14 of which registered on target according to the stats people.
The stat which mattered to the 1,030 Preston supporters in the School End upper tier was that their side was left empty-handed.
The manner in which all three goals were conceded had a touch of self-infliction, the third especially.
PNE did claim an injustice in the build-up to goals two and three, disputing it should have been a free-kick which led to the second and that the ball went out of play early in the move for goal No.3.
That still didn’t excuse the way they defended from there.
It meant the coach ride home from the capital would have felt that bit longer, although not as long as the extra miles some of the North End faithful had to put in to complete their train journey.
The last thing needed after a loss was the train having to divert to Manchester, with all passengers having to squash into a three-carriage rattler for the last leg.
You could look at three injuries as a reason, not an excuse, behind the defeat.
North End lost Ali McCann in the first half, Pat Bauer at the interval and then Sean Maguire just after QPR had levelled.
McCann hurt his ankle making a challenge on Andre Gray, his first Championship start lasting just 25 minutes.
A dead leg took Bauer out of the back three, a defence which was already missing Andrew Hughes – and it showed. Maguire got stamped on in a challenge, the knock-on from that causing a tweak of his hamstring.
Maguire was PNE’s best player, setting-up goals for Emil Riis and Josh Earl.
His afternoon deserved to finish better, not on the losing side and not sat in the dug out.
Frankie McAvoy’s choice of replacement from the bench for Maguire, attracted criticism from the fans. Brad Potts was put on to play up front, that despite head coach McAvoy also having the choice of Josh Murphy or Scott Sinclair.
They stayed sat down, with Potts thrust up top and not for the first time this season.
The change was made just after QPR’s equaliser and Potts had hardly had a chance to get his kit dirty when the hosts’ winner hit the net.
Defeat wasn’t received well, either live by those watching at the ground or on social media.
An opportunity missed was the general opinion, the game there for the taking when PNE were 2-1 up.
That’s probably where the frustration and annoyance comes in.
North End had done a lot of the hard graft, recovering from conceding the first goal to equalise and nudge ahead.
Had it been a bad day at the office, you almost accept the defeat and move on quickly.
But having scored twice on the road for only the second time in the league this season and deservedly been ahead, QPR turning the game on its head was a bitter pill.
Their first goal in the 17th minute came from the ball behind moved from one box to the other quickly.
Goalkeeper Seny Dieng caught a cross and bowled it out to Ilias Chair who motored up the ball and laid a pass out to Gray on the left-wing.
Gray’s cross was contested by Greg Cunningham and Lyndon Dykes, both ending in a heap on the turf.
Dykes got up and with the ball almost trapped under Cunningham’s leg, prodded a shot into the net.
PNE equalised in the 27th minute. Earl fed Maguire down the left side, who from his own half slipped a pass down the channel to Riis.
The Dane got behind defender Rob Dickie, took a touch in the box and tucked a shot through the legs of Dieng.
Less than a minute of the second half had been played when the visitors made it 2-1.
Sepp van den Berg’s pass found Ryan Ledson who lifted the ball over the QPR defence.
Maguire chased it down the side of the six-yard box, his drilled cross clipping off Dieng and falling to Earl who tapped home his first senior goal.
Cunningham and sub Liam Lindsay then both went up to try and clear Chair’s free-kick at the far post, the ball falling to Jimmy Dunne who knocked in the hosts’ equalise.
Their winner was a mess, Lindsay slipping as he chased Dykes for a ball near the edge of the box. Both went to ground, Dykes on his hands and knees using his head to nudge the ball square to Charlie Austin.
Daniel Iversen stuck out a foot to save Austin's shot and Alan Browne’s attempt to clear got charged down by Dykes who turned the ball to Chair.
The QPR dangerman had time to control a couple of yards inside the box and then pick his spot with a low shot across Iversen into the far corner.
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