Match report: PNE 0 Derby County 1
Preston North End were left to rue a missed penalty as an unhappy Easter was completed by defeat to Derby County at Deepdale.
Alan Browne put a 36th minute spot kick wide of the post, the midfielder having won the penalty himself after being fouled by Andre Wisdom.
It came in a first half which North End bossed, but like at Sheffield Wednesday on Good Friday, they failed to take advantage of that.
And in a mirror image of the defeat at Hillsborough, they were caught cold early in the second half.
Tom Lawrence scored Derby's winner with a swerving free-kick from 25 yards, that their first shot of the game at the time and only two the visitors had all game.
PNE's play-off chances now look slim after the two Easter defeats, while this was a third loss in four matches.
They lacked guile and a bit of quality as they chased an equaliser, the Rams able to soak up much of the pressure they came under.
Paul Gallagher had the best chance to level in the 85th minute but lifted a shot too high after visiting keeper Scott Carson had failed to claim a Billy Bodin cross.
North End boss Neil had made two changes to the side beaten by Wednesday, Chris Maxwell and Greg Cunningham coming at the expense of Declan Rudd and Josh Earl.
Early on Browne sent a shot from 20 yards over the bar, while Tom Barkhuizen could only volley straight at the keeper from a tight angle after being found by Callum Robinson's diagonal ball.
Derby, relying very much on the counter-attack, saw David Nugent fund space down the right-wing and put over a cross which found Matej Vydra in the box.
But the Czech striker's chest down had too much on it and Maxwell came out to collect.
A tactical tweak during the first half saw Robinson switched inside with Sean Maguire moving out to the left.
That saw Robinson get on the ball much more and North End looked the more dangerous for it.
In the 21st minute, Maguire saw an overhead kick blocked in the six-yard by a Derby player after a corner had caused confusion in the visitors' ranks.
Just before the half-hour mark, Browne's pass played in Robinson down the right hand side of the box, Robinson's low angled shot saved by Carson with his out-stretched right boot.
Robinson's flicked header from Paul Gallagher's ball into the box dropped just wide of the far post as Preston kept the pressure on.
They were awarded a penalty in the 36th minute when Browne went to ground under Wisdom's challenge as the pair competed down the left side of the box.
Referee Tony Harrington pointed to the spot and it was Browne who picked himself up to take it.
But with Carson having sold himself the wrong way, the midfielder hit the penalty wide.
Three minutes before the interval, Robinson's low shot from just inside the box flashed just wide of the target.
As they had been at Hillsborough on Good Friday, North End were caught cold at the start of the second half as they fell behind.
Derby's goal came in the 53rd minute when Barkhuizen gave away a needless free-kick on Nugent 25 yards out.
Lawrence hit the free-kick low and hard, it swerving beyond Maxwell into the far bottom corner, the keeper perhaps thinking he might have done better.
North End responded by sending on Louis Moult for Browne, Moult going up front with Maguire moving back centrally into the No.10 role and Robinson going to the left.
With 69 minutes played, Gallagher's free-kick into the box was cleared only as far as Paul Huntington who blazed a first-time shot over the bar from 12 yards.
Moult's first-time shot from the edge of the 'D' spun wide of the target.
With 10 minutes remaining, Ben Pearson lost possession to Kasey Palmer just outside the box, the Rams substitute driving a low shot just wide of the far post.
Preston had a good chance to equalise in the 85th minute, keeper Carson failing to hold a cross from substitute Bodin in a crowded box with the ball falling to Gallagher.
But from 10 yards, Gallagher lifted a first-time shot over the bar.
Bodin sent a shot from outside the box straight at Carson, while Maguire's stoppage-time header hit a Derby player and went through to the keeper
PNE: Maxwell, Fisher, Huntington, Davies, Cunningham, Pearson, Gallagher, Barkhuizen (Bodin 73), Browne (Moult 63), Robinson (Johnson 79), Maguire. Subs (not used): Clarke, Harrop, Earl, Rudd.
Derby: Carson, Wisdom, Pearce, Davies, Baird, Ledley, Huddlestone, Weimann, Vydra (Palmer 73), Lawrence (Hanson 88), Nugent (Jerome 90). Subs (not used): Forsyth, Keogh, Thomas, Roos.
Referee: Tony Harrington (Tyne and Wear)
Attendance: 13,520 (1,140 away)