West Bromwich wasted their opportunity of going second in the First Division as Dickson Etuhu's headed goal decided a match with two bizarrely similar missed penalties within two minutes of each other.
The Baggies' Scott Dobie was the first to rattle the crossbar, his effort cleared to safety after Adam Chambers had been brought down by Sean Gregan in the 47th minute.
Almost immediately, imitation proved the sincerest form of flattery as Richard Cresswell was up-ended in a similar position by Larus Sigurdsson and stood up to perpetrate a carbon-copy miss.
Everything from the run-up to the end result was the same as the ball again came back off the underside of the bar.
Of the two, Preston were less discouraged by their wastefulness. After 56 minutes, Adam Eaton had a fierce shot palmed away and Etuhu, the former Manchester City midfielder who looks an impressive acquisition for North End, emphatically headed in Rob Edwards' cross.
Jon Macken should have doubled Preston's lead with a free header from Michael Keane's clever cross. Instead they had to withstand a late charge as Albion tried to salvage something from a sub-standard performance.
Dobie almost redeemed his penalty miss with a shot on the turn that just passed the post and even Albion's goalkeeper, Russell Hoult, joined the last flurry, volleying over the top when a goal from him would have been a suitably eccentric finale.
Preston, still with play-off aspirations, had been the better side in a first half that gave little clue to the strange things to come. Macken and Cresswell threatened repeatedly against an off-colour Albion, who only came to life immediately before half time when Edwards slid in to deny Andy Johnson.
Up to that point, a penalty might have seemed their best chance of a goal, though both sides later demonstrated that route was not the easy option it had previously appeared.
Preston North End (4-4-2): Lucas; Edwards, Lucketti, Gregan, Eaton; Gudjonsson (Skora, 80), Etuhu, McKenna, Keane; Macken (Healy, 80), Cresswell. Substitutes not used: Basham, Anderson, Moilanen (gk).
West Bromwich Albion (4-4-2): Hoult; Balis, Sigurdsson, Butler (Lyttle, 84), Gilchrist; A Chambers (Fox, 60), McInnes, Johnson, Clements; Roberts (Taylor, 44), Dobie. Substitutes not used: Adamson (gk), Jordão.
Referee: P Danson (Leicester).
* The Bolton defender, Colin Hendry has rejected a loan move to West Bromwich.Reuse content