Preston North End 0 West Bromwich Albion 1 - Match report on a cruel and controversial finale at Deepdale
Preston North End suffered a third straight defeat as they went down to a controversial late penalty against West Bromwich Albion at Deepdale.
Lilywhites goalkeeper Declan Rudd was adjudged to have brought down Baggies substitute Kyle Edwards in the 90th minute but television replays showed no contact.
Once the complaints had died down, Charlie Austion stepped-up to score the penalty and give the visitors the three points.
It was harsh on North End who deserved a point from a battling, disciplined performance, the display a huge improvement on that shown in the 4-0 defeat at Hull City last Wednesday.
The result brought to an end their unbeaten home record in the league this season.
They had a couple of good chances in the second half, Daniel Johnson seeing a shot touched behind by Albion keeper Sam Johnstone, while Alan Browne had an effort cleared off the line.
But then came the late heartache, their luck certainly out.
North End had battled their way in sight of a point despite having an injury-hit defence. Injuries had bitten deep in the back line, with Patrick Bauer joining the walking wounded after getting an injury in training.
With Darnell Fisher, Tom Clarke, Ben Davies and Andrew Hughes also missing, it left Alex Neil down to the bar bones at the back.
Paul Huntington came into the centre defence alongside Jordan Storey for his first start in the Championship since January, with Alan Browne returning from injury to play at right-back.
Teenager Jack Armer was named among the substitutes having been recalled from a loan spell at Lancaster City.
Huntington was terrific throughout in the heart of the defence, as was Browne at right-back
The first half saw Albion have the better of the play and the chances but North End held firm until the interval.
Johnson had the first effort of note, seeing a shot on the edge of the box blocked by a Baggies boot.
Albion right-back Nathan Ferguson drove forward from his own half in the 22nd minute and as the PNE defence backed off, he let fly with a rasping shot which Rudd touched over the bar.
Preston's best chance of the first half came in the 26th minute when Sean Maguire collected a throw-in from Joe Rafferty, slipped his marker and cut inside along the byline to the left of goal.
Maguire chose to try and beat Johnstone at the near post but it was too tight an angle, the Baggies keeper beating it away with North End players better positioned in the middle for a cut back.
Matt Phillips whipped a shot just wide for the visitors, then it was his free-kick from the right channel which found its way to Kyle Bartley at the far post who shot wide on the half-volley.
Rudd dived to his left to hold a shot on the turn from Phillips who had been fed a pass by Matheus Pereira.
Then two minutes before half-time, Rudd got down to get fingertips to another Phillips shot which had kept low.
Six minutes into the second half, Semi Ajayi's foul on Jayden Stockley brought the Albion centre-half a yellow card and North End a free-kick.
Ben Pearson touched it to Brad Potts, the midfielder's low shot hitting team-mate Maguire in the wall and spinning wide.
Twice in the space of minute PNE went close to breaking the deadlock as they enjoyed a patch of pressure.
In the 63rd minute, Johnson collected a pass from Maguire on the edge of the box and curled a low left-foot shot goalwards which Johnstone dived to his right to touch past the post.
Browne's resulting corner from the left travelled to the far side of the box, Maguire chasing it and the ball back into the middle.
It was met by Browne who had followed the corner in, his first-time shot blocked on the line by Ferguson.
Albion's late winner came in controversial circumstances as Edwards chased a ball down the left hand side of the box.
Rudd came to challenge but didn't commit and Edwards went to ground, referee Oliver Langford pointing to the penalty spot - replays showed no contact.
Austin stepped-up and sent Rudd the wrong way from the spot, a cruel end to a game Preston deserved a point from.
PNE: Rudd, Browne, Huntington, Storey, Rafferty, Pearson, Johnson, Barkhuizen (Bodin 90), Potts (Harrop 88), Maguire (Nugent 90), Stockley. Subs (not used): Bayliss, Ledson, Armer, Ripley.
Albion: Johnstone, Ferguson, Bartley, Ajayi, Gibbs, Sawyers, Livermore, Phillips (Edwards 61), Pereira, Diangana (Austin 75), Robson-Kanu (Krovinovic 84). Subs (not used): Furlong, Barry, Hegazi, Bond.
Referee: Oliver Langford (West Midands)
Attendance: 13,015 (1,357 away)