Alex Neil felt maintaining an attacking approach when down to 10 men was the key to Preston beating Burton at Deepdale.
North End played a man light for 40 minutes after the sending-off of Billy Bodin for two yellow cards.
They led 1-0 at the time with a Callum Robinson goal but Burton took advantage of their extra man when Hope Akpan fired them level.
But PNE continued to look to counter-attack, the visitors having to commit players up field as they chased a second goal which was needed to see them avoid the drop.
One such attack in the third minute of time added-on saw substitute Louis Moult hit the winner.
PNE boss Neil said: “We didn’t sit behind the ball like we had done in certain games this season after losing a man.
“We had to do that against Wolves and Brentford who move the ball really well.
“If you come out trying to hunt the ball, they will really pick you off.
“No disrespect to Burton but they are more direct and don’t have as many technical players who are going to drop into pockets and hurt you.
“It allowed us to keep more players higher up the pitch so that if they over-committed we could punish them.
“That is what exactly what happened when we scored at the end there.”
While North End missed out on the play-offs, their win played a part in Burton being relegated.
They had needed to match or better Bolton’s result against Nottingham Forest but Wanderers won 3-2 after being 2-1 down.
Neil said: “I take no pride or delight in any team going down.
“I know when we scored the second goal our fans were up cheering but if you noticed I told my bench to sit down.
“The reason we came up short in the play-off race was that we didn’t do enough.
“Burton went down, not because of this result, but over the course of the season it hasn’t been enough.
“Nigel Clough will say the same thing when he looks at how things went.
“I’ve always said that at the end of the season you deserve to be where you finish.
“We’ve had a good season and we’ll look to build on it.”