Preston North End 2 Fulham 1 - Match report from Deepdale as David Nugent scores his first PNE goal for 12 years
Preston North End ended a run of four defeats as they beat Fulham at Deepdale in a game of two red cards.
It was an action-packed contest, David Nugent scoring his first PNE goal since April 2007.
Sean Maguire had given the Lilywhites the lead in the 23rd minute, turning sharply to shoot home after Alan Browne had flicked on a corner.
Fulham left-back Denis Odoi got the first red card in the 28th minute for an elbow on Patrick Bauer.
But the numbers were evened up on the stroke of half-time when Joe Rafferty got his marching orders for a lunge on Cottagers substitute Joe Bryan.
Nugent's big moment came seven minutes into the second half with a typical close-range strike, the game seemingly well in North End's grasp by then.
However, old foe Alexsandar Mitrovic found the net in the 82nd minute to set up a nervy finish.
Thankfully North End held out to claim their first win since October 9 and moved back up to sixth in the table.
Alex Neil had made three changes to the side beaten at QPR, Bauer, Billy Bodin and Nugent replacing Jordan Storey, Jayden Stockley and Tom Barkhuizen - the latter two making the bench.
Fulham had the game's first sight of goal in the third minute, Mitrovic holding off Paul Huntington and shooting low past the post from just inside the box.
Bodin saw a 20-yard shot deflected wide after Andrew Hughes' cross from the left had been headed on by Nugent, while Brad Potts drove a low free-kick from distance into the wall.
North End took a 23rd minute lead after forcing a corner on the left.
Bodin delivered it to the near post area where Browne flicked it on, the ball dropping across the six yard to Maguire who turned sharply and fired home a low shot on the angle from six yards.
They went close to doubling their lead when Bodin's free-kick from the right channel was met by Huntington who guided a header across goal and just wide of the far post.
Odoi got the first red card of the evening in the 28th minute. As he challenged to meet a bouncing ball just outside the PNE box, he led with his elbow colliding with Bauer, flattening the North End centre-half.
Referee Keith Stroud consulted his assistant on the Sir Tom Finney Stand side before producing the red card.
When Cottagers keeper Marek Rodak collided with a team-mate punching a cross clear in PNE's first attack after the sending-off, the ball fell to Bodin on the edge of the box who saw his lob scrambled behind for a corner.
Ben Pearson was fortunate not to follow Odoi to the dressing room in the 34th minute, his tackle on Josh Onomah earning a yellow card when on another day it could easily have been red.
Maguire was close to a second goal, Bodin slipping him behind the visitors' defence with a fine low pass, the Irishman reaching it on the stretch but seeing Rodak save with his legs.
If Pearson had been fortunate to steer clear of a red card, Rafferty was not in the 45th minute.
His foot was high when he challenged Fulham substitute Joe Bryan on the half-way line, a rather unnecessary tackle in that area of the pitch,
Rafferty seemed to hurt himself in the challenge and was still on the floor when Mr Stroud produced his red card again.
So it became a 10 versus 10 contest, Browne dropping in at right-back to cover Rafferty's departure.
Five minutes into the second half, Nugent got room in the box but put his shot too close to the keeper who pushed it out.
That served only as a temporary respite for Fulham though, as Nugent got his name on the scoresheet in the 52nd minute - 4,623 days since his last Preston goal in April 2007.
It was achieved on the counter-attack, Declan Rudd's quick throw-out finding Maguire who carried the ball down the left.
Play was switched inside to Potts who took it on towards the box, exchanged passes with Bodin, before hitting a low shot which hit Rodak on the leg and spun into the air.
Nugent got up to meet it, nodded it down and then poked home a shot from a couple of yards out to send the home crowd wild.
Fulham became more of an attacking force as the second half progressed, having to force the issue as they tried to claw something back.
Stefan Johansen's 73rd minute curling shot from the corner of the box came back off the bar, with a Mitrovic shot soon after going just wide.
North End didn't make the most of working themselves into promising positions on the counter-attack, the final pass lacking a bit of quality or decisiveness.
The visitors halved the deficit with eight minutes left, Mitrovic's low shot from the edge of the box catching a slight deflection and finding the bottom corner.
It meant a nervous finish although twice PNE went close to a third goal, Josh Harrop driving a low shot across goal and wide of the far post after cutting in from the left-wing.
Then fellow substitute Barkhuizen was played in on goal with just the keeper to beat but saw Rodak save.
There was defending for North End to do during six minutes of stoppage-time, including having to defend a 96th minute corner.
But they saw it through for the most welcome of three points.
PNE: Rudd, Rafferty, Bauer, Huntington, Hughes, Pearson (Clarke 83), Bodin (Harrop 83), Potts, Browne, Maguire, Nugent (Barkhuizen 75). Subs (not used): Bayliss, Ledson, Stockley, Hudson.
Fulham: Rodak, Christie, Ream, Mawson (Kebano 60), Odoi, Johansen, Onomah, Cavaleiro (Bryan 32), Knockaert (La Torre 90), Kamara, Mitrovic. Subs (not used): O'Riley, Taylor-Crossdale, Harris, Bettinelli.
Referee: Keith Stroud (Hampshire)
Attendance: 10,093 (331 away)