The Lilywhites frontman netted from the penalty spot 12 minutes from time of what was an eventful clash.
His winner came just two minutes after strike partner David Healy had missed from the spot.
But that was not the only drama as North End hit back from going a goal down to win the Tuesday night contest.
They lost keeper Andrew Lonergan in the first half to injury on his 21st birthday and the closing stages saw a brawl on the touchline as the visitors from West London saw a seven-game winning run halted.
PNE had gone into QPR’s visit without three defenders who had been injured in a 1-0 defeat at Leeds United three days earlier.
Callum Davidson, Marlon Broomes and John Curtis were missing , so there was a recall for centre-back Claude Davis in a re-jigged 3-5-2.
Healy got the nod to start in the attack in the midst of strong interest from Leeds.
The Irishman had clapped the Leeds supporters when they sang his name three days earlier, something which had not sat easy with the Preston faithful.
This clash with QPR was to be Healy’s penultimate game in a North End shirt – Leeds getting their man a couple of weeks later.
The visitors made the trip to Lancashire looking to equal a club-record eighth straight win set in 1931.
An eighth-minute opener suggested the class of 2004 would write their name into the history books.
Lonergan had tipped a free-kick from Kevin Gallen behind for a corner and when it came across, George Santos rose inside the six-yard box to head home.
North End were behind for less than three minutes.
Lonergan launched a big goalkick forward, the flight of which was misjudged by Santos.
Healy took full advantage, racing clear and slotting a low finish past Rangers keeper Chris Day.
The keeper, who would have a spell on loan with PNE later that season, saved with his legs from a Healy volley in the 30th minute.
Soon after at the other end, Kevin McLeod sent a header against the North End bar.
Lonergan limped off in the 37th minute, Gavin Ward coming on for his PNE debut.
Ward had a reasonably quiet night – it was Day at the other end who was to be far the busier.
Day saved well from PNE skipper Chris Lucketti and from his own team-mate Santos.
Things got tasty in the 76th minute when Cresswell was brought down in the box by Marcus Bignot and as North End’s players shouted for a penalty, Eddie Lewis put the ball in the net.
Referee Andy Hall ruled the goal out and pointed to the spot.
With usual penalty taker Graham Alexander having been substituted, Healy was on spot-kick duty.
But his effort hit the legs of Day and the ball was cleared up field.
North End got another chance from the spot two minutes later when Healy’s shot hit Gino Padula on the arm and Mr Hall awarded a penalty.
Cresswell stepped up this time and scored, despite the best efforts of Day who got a glove to it.
When Lewis was fouled on the halfway line soon after, a scuffle broke out, resulting in QPR coach Tim Breacker being sent to the stand.