Victory was not enough to prevent PNE being relegated to the Fourth Division for the first time.
They made the journey to Bootham Crescent knowing that they needed to win, and for results elsewhere to go in their favour.
While they did their bit by beating the Minstermen with a second-half goal from Ian Stevens, others involved in the relegation scrap got the points they required.
So a fourth away win of the season – two of those had come in September – was a case of too little, too late.
However sad a day it was for Preston though, events the same afternoon made it pale into insignificance.
A fire in Bradford City’s main stand claimed the lives of 56 people.
PNE’s job of avoiding the drop had been made almost mission impossible by a run of six games without a win.
They had been beaten 5-2 at Deepdale by Wigan the week before, that result a huge hammer blow.
Against York, goalkeeper Glenn Campbell was a busy man in the first half.
Campbell, playing behind the leakiest defence in the Football League, pulled off three good saves.
The best of the lot was when he dived full-length to tip away a shot from Gary Ford.
North End’s best chance of the first half fell the way of John Kelly.
The midfielder got on the end of a cross from David Johnson, but volleyed over the bar from close range.
Kelly was to make amends by setting-up the Lilywhites’ winner eight minutes into the second half.
He lifted a delicate chip over the York defence, which Stevens and home keeper Roger Jones both went for.
Stevens got there first and looped a header over Jones into the net.
It was the youngster’s first goal for the club in only his fourth appearance.
Central defender Geoff Twentyman kept North End’s lead intact when he cleared a header from Dale Banton off the line.
The visitors should have extended their lead in the 75th minute, when a Mike Farrelly pass put Peter Houghton clear.
But his shot lacked power and keeper Jones managed to save.
At the final whistle news filtered through that North End had been relegated, being one of three teams to finish on 46 points.
The players threw their shirts into the away end where more than 1,000 PNE fans were gathered.
Reacting post-match to relegation, North End boss Tommy Booth said: “I’ve said it before that the club needs to make a fresh start and have a completely different approach.”
Sadly, those words were not heeded, with the club finishing second bottom in the Fourth Division the campaign after and having to apply for re-election.
Preston: Campbell,M Jones, Atkins, D Jones, Twentyman, Farrelly, Kelly, Stevens, Brazil, Johnson (Welsh 74), Houghton.