Preston North End kept their play-off hopes alive with a 2-1 win against Birmingham City at Deepdale on Tuesday night.
Callum Robinson headed the hosts into an eighth minute lead before Che Adams cancelled that out with a stunning early second-half effort, but Jordan Hugill tapped in 12 minutes from time to earn Preston a second home win in four days.
Preston started well and might have gone in front when Hugill shot straight at Tomasz Kuszczak after six minutes, but his strike partner Robinson made amends two minutes later by heading in at the near post from Aiden McGeady’s left-wing cross.
The home side continued to control much of the play in the following moments, with Daryl Horgan shooting well from distance on a couple of occasions, but Gianfranco Zola’s men grew back into the contest and went close after the half hour when Kerim Frei chipped an effort over the bar.
Both Frei and Ben Pearson were then booked for an altercation on the stroke of half-time, with the Lilywhites holding on to their advantage until the break.
The visitors continued improving after the interval and saw much more of the ball in their opponents’ half while creating the better of the chances for much of the half.
Craig Gardner was perhaps closest to sending the Blues ahead on 77 minutes as goalkeeper Chris Maxwell needed two attempts to save his low free-kick, but a couple of game-changing moments followed in the next two minutes.
Preston regained their lead in the 78th minute as Hugill tapped in unmarked from Horgan’s pinpoint low delivery from the right byline, and Birmingham’s Gardner was sent off for a second yellow card a minute later.
Hugill and Horgan both had opportunities to make the closing moments more comfortable, with the former shooting straight at Kuszczak from minimal distance, but the hosts held on for the victory.
The win sends Simon Grayson’s men eight points clear of the Blues while they remain seven points behind the play-off places.
Preston North End: Maxwell; Browning, Clarke, Huntington, Cunningham; Horgan, Browne, Pearson, McGeady (Johnson, 85); Robinson (Barkhuizen, 63), Hugill (Makienok, 90). Subs not used: Lindegaard, Beckford, May, Boyle.
Birmingham City: Kusczczak; Nsue, Bielik, Kieftenbeld, Keita (Stewart, 83); Gleeson (Sinclair, 89), Grounds, Gardner (c); Frei (Dacres-Cogley, 46), Jutkiewicz, Adams. Subs not used: Legzdins, Robinson, Tesche, O’Keefe.
Attendance: 10,233 (614)
Referee: Tim Robinson (West Sussex)