A controversial injury-time winning goal from substitute Collin Quaner lifted Huddersfield to the brink of a guaranteed place in the play-offs as they seek a return to the to flight for the first time in 45 years.
The German struck his first league goal for the third-placed Championship side, converting the rebound from an Aaron Mooy penalty that had been saved by Chris Maxwell.
But Lee Probert’s decision to award the spot kick deep into added time was hotly disputed after he decided Jordan Hugill had felled Elias Kachunga in an off-the-ball incident.
Probert took an age in making his decision and the mood of the losing side was reflected in a shoving match that took place between rival players as they walked off the pitch and down the tunnel.
In a hugely eventful contest, another Huddersfield substitute Jack Payne, with his first goal since August, earlier appeared to have earned his team three points with a headed goal that put his team 2-1 ahead with less than 20 minutes to play.
A superb cross-field pass from Nahki Wells picked out full-back Tommy Smith at the far post who volleyed across the face of goal for Payne to stoop and head into the roof of Maxwell’s net for a lead which would last just eight minutes.
But not for the first time in recent weeks, Town were guilty of poor defending as they gifted Preston a 79th minute equaliser.
Daniel Johnson chased a seemingly lost cause, beating goalkeeper Danny Ward to the ball and laying it back for Tom Barkhuizen whose accurate cross was headed in from close range by Hugill.
After three defeats in their previous four outings, Huddersfield appear to have succumbed to a bad case of nerves at the worst possible time and a superb opening goal from Aiden McGeady after 23 minutes did not help matters.
The Ireland international winger collected a ball from Paul Gallagher 30 yards from goal, dipped his shoulder to beat a defender and advanced 10 yards before depositing a superb shot past Ward.
It was the on-loan Everton man’s eighth goal of the season for North End, the majority of them just as impressive and from equally long range, and demonstrated the mercurial talent possessed by the 31-year-old.
But having conceded to virtually Preston’s first attack of the game, Huddersfield were gifted a route back into the contest two minutes before the interval by visiting goalkeeper Maxwell.
He badly misjudged Mooy’s left-wing corner, flapping with an attempted punch which allowed Kachunga a free header that was converted with ease.
Maxwell had been far more impressive with what amounted to the only other clear-cut chance of the first half, after just three minutes, when his reflex save kept out a Kachunga volley which deflected off Paul Huntington.
Aside from that chance, Huddersfield succeeded only in demonstrating how badly their form has slipped in recent weeks during a first half that was full of unforced errors and poor decisions.
McGeady remained a problem for the home side after the restart with a couple of attacking flurries, the first of which saw him beat Chris Lowe before delivering a low shot which Ward saved well.
But Huddersfield, who lost just once in 18 games before their recent troubles began at the start of last month, battled to rediscover that rhythm of their early season attacking play and, with Moor proving increasingly influential, eventually began to exploit gaps in the Preston defenceReuse content