The midfielder played a key role in the Ashton Gate victory, that their first league win on the road this season.
He set up the winning goal for Callum Robinson and the move forward into the No.10 position benefitted him.
North End boss Neil told the Post: “DJ needs to work hard for the team, when he does that he is an absolutely quality player.
“I would say that against Bristol City he had his best game for Preston since I have been at the club.
“His work-rate, his effort and his technical ability was tremendous.
“The quality and vision which DJ showed for the goal, we know he has got that.
“Against Bristol City it was a case of whether he could do the hard graft, match Marlon Pack and compete with him.
“DJ did that, he got through so much work and it was great to come away with the win.
“For the goal he showed real vision to pick up Callum with the pass.”
This season, Neil had used Johnson in the main further back in a deeper midfield role.
But at Bristol City, he put Paul Gallagher alongside Ben Pearson in the engine room and moved Johnson behind striker Sean Maguire.
That meant Alan Browne had to settle for a place on the bench – the Irishman joined the action in the 64th minute in place of Gallagher.
It took quite a while for Johnson’s season to get going.
The 26-year-old suffered an injury towards the end of pre-season training and there seemed a reluctance to play him while he was involved in contract negotiations.
Johnson did feature in the early-season League Cup win over Morecambe but his first league appearance came as a substitute at Norwich, the day he signed a new deal.
His first Championship start of the campaign came against Reading in September.
Johnson twice came off the bench to score at Sheffield United and Aston Villa.
He has started the last six games but that run will come to an after the international break due to suspension.
In the second half of the Bristol City game he stood in the way of the hosts taking a quick free-kick and picked up his fifth yellow card.
The one-match ban rules him out of the derby clash with Blackburn at Deepdale.
The FA’s amnesty for five cautions is on November 30.
Browne is the only North End player on four league bookings at the moment.
On the international front, Browne, Robinson and Sean Maguire all made the cut for the Republic of Ireland squad.
They face a friendly against Northern Ireland on Thursday and then travel to Denmark in the Nations League.