A heavily-deflected effort from Jordan Hugill after only seven minutes was enough to condemn Wigan Athletic to a fifth defeat in six matches, and hand Preston the local bragging rights following a scrappy encounter.
Latics, unbeaten in their last seven trips to Deepdale, certainly saw enough of the ball, and created more than enough chances, to have extended that sequence.
But they couldn’t respond to Hugill’s seventh-minute opener, which owed more than a little to good fortune.
Hugill was in the right place at the right time to divert a shot from Aiden McGeady beyond a helpless Adam Bogdan.
And try as they might, Latics couldn’t muster a response.
Top scorer Will Grigg headed over on the 15-minute mark, and Nathan Byrne hit the outside of the post after the break.
But the North End rearguard held firm, and the home side could even have won by more had Bogdan not pulled off a couple of fine saves.
The result leaves Latics mired in the bottom three, above rock-bottom Cardiff only on goal difference, ahead of the Saturday fixtures.
Despite having made the long trip down to Bournemouth in midweek, it was North End who started the stronger, and they were ahead inside seven minutes.
Alan Browne had already seen a header saved when the ball fell to McGeady 30 yards from goal.
The Irishman’s shot didn’t look like it would trouble Bogdan, but it took a fortuitous ricochet off Hugill and completely wrong-footed the Latics goalkeeper.
Without a win since their opening home game, it would have been easy for Latics heads to have dropped at this point.
But in fairness to the visitors, they quickly recovered and bossed the rest of the first half.
Jordi Gomez shot wide from a good position, before a driving run from Yanic Wildshut saw the ball helped out to Michael Jacobs.
However, the cross was well over-hit and the home defence breathed a sigh of relief.
Latics had half a chance on the 15-minute mark when a deep cross from Stephen Warnock almost found Grigg at the far post, but the ball was always just in front of the attacker and he couldn’t control.
Within a minute, Grigg had another chance, this time a wonderful delivery from Gomez, and the Northern Ireland international will feel he should have at least hit the target rather than head over the top from six yards.
Wildschut then cut in from the left only to see his shot deflected over, before Gomez tried to fool the North End wall with a free-kick from 30 yards, only for his deliberate daisy-cutter to be blocked by a home leg.
Gomez fired inches wide as half-time approached, and it was North End who would have been happier to hear the whistle and the chance to regroup.
The interval worked for Preston, who almost took the lead within three minutes of the restart.
Hugill found himself clean through after Jake Buxton tried to play offside, and Bogdan pulled off a magnificent save to touch the shot round the post.
Latics made a couple of changes as the hour mark approached, withdrawing Shaun MacDonald and Jacobs, and sending on Nick Powell and David Perkins.
The latter slotted into the unusual position of right-back, which allowed Byrne to move up the field to right wing.
Within a minute, the reshuffle almost paid dividends when Grigg did well to find Byrne in acres at the far post.
His first shot was blocked, but his second - aimed at a narrow gap at the near post - succeeded only in kissing the upright on the way behind.
Bogdan was relieved to watch a low effort from McGeady skid harmlessly past the far post, before Latics went all-in by withdrawing Byrne - possibly still not totally match-fit - and sending on Craig Davies to partner Grigg with 11 minutes to go.
Despite dominating possession and territory, Latics weren’t really working home goalkeeper Chris Maxwell enough.
That changed with five minutes to go when Gomez sent in a wicked free-kick that, although straight at the goalkeeper, was hit with real venom and needed saving.
North End squandered a gilt-edged opportunity to make the game safe within a minute when substitute Ben Pearson barged his way through only to slice his effort wide from 15 yards.
And despite the carrot for Latics of four added minutes, it was North End who almost doubled their lead in stoppage-time only for Bogdan to race off his line and smother the ball off Pearson’s toes.