Paul Gallagher’s importance to the Preston midfield was once again underlined in the victory at Sunderland.
His pinpoint delivery of a free-kick set-up Sean Maguire for the Lilywhites’ opener at the Stadium of Light.
They pushed on from that to score again through Callum Robinson and clinch an eighth away league win of the season.
Saturday’s game saw the 33-year-old Gallagher back in the starting XI.
He had been restricted to an unused sub role in the defeat to Fulham a week earlier due to a tight hamstring.
North End manager Alex Neil said: “Gally brings us that real quality.
“He didn’t have his best first half at Sunderland but got a lot better.
“What Gally can do is pick a pass which unlocks defences, that is why he is in the team.
“For the goal he produced a great bit of quality and I was delighted with him.”
Gallagher’s return against Sunderland saw Neil able to select his favoured midfield trio – Gallagher joined Alan Browne and Ben Pearson in the engine room.
They have played 10 games together as a three, Pearson and Gallagher slightly deeper with Browne further forward behind the striker.
North End have won eight of those 10 games and drawn the other two.
Gallagher lasted 72 minutes at Sunderland, Daniel Johnson replacing him to help see out the game.
DJ had the chance to add to the scoreline when he got clear in the last minute and took the ball around keeper Lee Camp.
But he saw his shot blocked on the line by Black Cats left-back Bryan Oviedo.
Gallagher is in the last few months of his current deal at PNE.
Although he was disrupted by injury and illness earlier in the season, he has gone on to make 18 starts in the league and one appearance off the bench.
Gallagher’s experience is something Neil likes to have in the squad which in the main is a young one.
His link-up with Pearson and Browne, as results show, has been at the core of North End’s push for the top-six.
It is four-and-a-half years since Gallagher joined PNE for a second time on loan – he had a four-month spell here in 2007.
He signed permanently in June 2015 after promotion to the Championship.
His two spells have seen him play 216 games in a PNE shirt.