Norwich City 2 Preston NE 2

Neil Mellor stepped from the bench to snatch a point as Preston North End staged a late rally at Carrow Road.

The former Liverpool striker hammered Alan Irvine's side level from the edge of the box nine minutes from time after they looked to be heading for their eighth defeat in 10 games.

Mellor was a toe-cap away from stealing all three points moments later as he threw himself at a pass from fellow substitute Richard Chaplow which rolled across the face of the Norwich goal.

It was a dramatic end to a game Preston had led from the second minute only to be pushed back on to the back foot by goals from Leroy Lita and John Kennedy.

Chris Brown returned to haunt his old club on his first visit to Carrow Road since leaving for Deepdale last January.

He scored in under two minutes, following up when a Barry Nicholson shot had been blocked by defender Jon Ostemobor.

But Lita levelled after 14 minutes with a free header at the near post from a left-wing corner.

With the Canaries flying Preston were fortunate not to fall behind before the interval.

But it took until the 62nd minute for the home side to turn their pressure into a second goal, defender Kennedy getting in at the far post from a curling free-kick to surpise Andrew Lonergan.

It looked like Norwich would run out winners until Darel Russell was shown a straight red card 10 minutes from time for pushing Ross Wallace in the face.

North End made their numerical advantage tell within a minute when Chaplow threaded a ball through for Mellor to turn and hammer a ferocious shot past Marshall to snatch a draw.

Preston could not have asked for a better start with City old boy Brown on the mark inside two minutes.

Defender Jon Otsemobor and keeper David Marshall got in a tangle over a high ball lofted into the goalmouth, Barry Nicholson tried to turn the loose ball in, Otsemobor blocked on the line, but Brown latched on to the rebound and hammered it in from 10 yards.

Things got worse for the Canaries moments later when defender Dejan Stefanovic landed awkwardly after a challenge on Billy Jones and had to be stretchered off with his left leg in a splint.

But the home side composed themselves and were level in the 14th minute. Wayne Brown slid in to turn a dangerous cross behind and when David Bell delivered the corner from the left Lita got up uncontested to head firmly past Lonergan.

Just before the half hour mark referee Paul Taylor rejected loud appeals for a Norwich penalty when Lee Croft's cross from the right appeared to strike Paul McKenna on the hand and bounce behind for a corner.

And a minute after that Lonergan prevented North End from falling behind when Lita was put through the middle - the keeper sticking out an arm to beat away the shot.

And in the very next attack Bertrand saw a ferocious shot from the left of the box crash back off the crossbar, with Croft pulling the rebound across the face of goal and wide of the left-hand post.

In the 37th minute Lita wriggled free on the right of the Preston box and thumped in a low cross which Callum Davidson very nearly turned into his own net, the ball flashing inches wide of the far post.

The one-way traffic continued in the second half with Norwich pushing forward in waves and North End defending in numbers.

Just before the hour mark Bell cut in from the left and put in a right-foot shot which Lonergan saved smartly diving to his left.

But four minutes later the keeper was caught out at his back post when a free-kick was swung across from the left and centre-half Kennedy sneaked in on the blind side to clip in a shot which a surprised Lonergan could only palm into the net.

Preston started to enjoy some forward play after Irvine sent on Neil Mellor, Chris Sedgwick and Richard Chaplow. And Wayne Brown went close when he got in front of the keeper to send a header inches over the top.

And they were helped 10 minutes from time when Russell was shown a straight red card for pushing Wallace in the face.

It took North End just 60 seconds to make their numerical advantage count. Chaplow threaded a pass through for Mellor to turn and smash a right-foot shot past keeper Marshall into the left corner of the net to level the scores.

And Mellor could have put Preston ahead four minutes after that when Chaplow wriggled in from the left-hand side of the box and rolled the ball across the six-yard box, but as the former Liverpool striker slid in he failed to get a touch.

With Preston finishing the stronger Marshall saved with his legs to deny Sedgwick and from the corner Jones put in a header which the keeper saved on the line.

Callum Davidson returned after a six-week lay-off and Chris Brown was also handed a start against his old club.

With Richard Chaplow back, but only on the bench, Irvine was getting nearer to his full-strength line-up - and not before time after a nightmare couple of months of injury problems.

The decision not to throw Chaplow straight in meant Billy Jones remained in centre midfield and Sean St Ledger continued at right-back.

Seven defeats in the last nine matches meant North End were in desperate need of a victory to halt their frightening slide down the Championship table.

But with Carrow Road not the happiest of hunting grounds for Preston in recent seasons it was not going to be easy in front of a full house.

Norwich, beaten in their last two games, made four changes to the side which went down 2-0 at Burnley last weekend.

Out went Elliot Omosuzi, Gary Doherty, Adam Drury and Mark Fotheringham to be replaced by Jon Otsemobor, Dejan Stefanovic, Ryan Bertrand and Antoine Sibierski.

Manager Glenn Roeder, dubbed the Loan Arranger due to the number of borrowed players at Carrow Road, used his full allocation of five in the squad - four in the starting line-up and one on the bench.

Norwich City: Marshall, Otsemobor, Kennedy, Stefanovic, Bertrand, Bell, Clingan, Russell, Croft, Lita, Sibierski.

Substitutes: Pattison, Cureton, Doherty, Hoolahan, Lupoli.

Preston NE: Lonergan, St Ledger, Mawene, W Brown, Davidson, Nicholson, Jones, McKenna, Wallace, C Brown, Elliott.

Substitutes: C Neal, Chaplow, Sedgwick, Parkin, Mellor.

Referee: Paul Taylor (Hertfordshire)