PNE classic game series: Preston 2 Birmingham 1 - the most dramatic night Deepdale has ever seen
The excitement levels were something else on a Thursday night in May 2001, the second-leg contest containing more than any script writer could have dreamt up.
A jam-packed three-sided Deepdale was kept enthralled by a late goal, a manager going into meltdown, a champagne-delivering comedian and a thrilling shootout.
North End trailed 1-0 to the Blues from the first leg at St Andrew’s.
The Lilywhites took the lead on the night and levelled the score on aggregate in the 24th minute.
A throw-in lobbed into the penalty area by right-back Graham Alexander seemed to hit the arm of Martin Grainger.
As the crowd shouted for handball, the ball dropped to David Healy who took a touch and rifled a shot into the roof of the net.
The visitors pulled level on the night in the 59th minute, swinging the tie back in their favour.
Stan Lazaridis’ low cross was missed by Marcelo but Geoff Horsfield arrived at the far post to shoot home.
Alexander hit the bar with a penalty, an opportunity wasted to get back on level terms in the tie.
But in the 91st minute, PNE broke from their own box on the counter-attack to score.
Rob Edwards, Sean Gregan, Jon Macken and Healy all played their part, and when Healy’s shot was parried by Blues keeper Ian Bennett, Mark Rankine was on hand to slot home.
Extra time brought no more goals and it went to a shootout, Birmingham boss Trevor Francis going into meltdown when he found out it would take place in front of the Bill Shankly Kop.
Alexander, Healy and Gregan scored, with PNE keeper David Lucas saving twice.
It was left to Paul McKenna to step up and fire Preston to the Millennium Stadium.