Neil Warnock rejected any suggestion of complacency as his Queens Park Rangers side surprisingly dropped two points against the Championship's bottom club. A poacher's finish from Heidar Helguson in the 37th minute looked to have given the leaders a win and comfortable seven-point advantage at the top. But Barry Nicholson's clever lob in the 64th minute ensured the margin would remain at five.
"We were probably too much in control of the first half and thought the second goal would just come," said the QPR manager. "We weren't complacent. We are not like that – but from now on it's going to be a grind."
For Preston, every point is priceless in their current predicament and this was thoroughly deserved. But their manager Phil Brown is still searching for his first win after taking charge eight games ago and victories will be their salvation as they have to make up 11 points to reach the safe zone.
"We are in the business of winning and three points would have been magnificent," he said. "You look at the strength in depth they have and you know they will go up as champions. They are strong in all areas which we had to match. Harsh words had to be said at half-time. Someone told me they have gone on to win every game they have been ahead in and we have managed to turn that stat around. But we have to win games."
Preston's start belied their lowly position. Nathan Ellington was denied by a timely block from Clint Hill and then by Paddy Kenny with a shot from distance. The Rangers goalkeeper also stretched to his right to keep out a low skidding effort from Eddie Johnson.
But the turning point came in the 24th minute when they looked to have a strong claim for a penalty rejected. Keith Treacy floated over a corner that seemed to be handled by Helguson, who had come back to help out his defence. He was better served at the other end as he proved with the opening goal. Ishmael Miller did well down the left, using pace and power to find space and then sending over a low cross that Helguson could not failto finish.
As so often this season, Adel Taarabt was a source of creativity for Rangers. He had an early curling effort saved by Iain Turner before a delightful show of skills in the 22nd minute saw him set up Alejandro Faurlin on the edge of the box with a clear sight of goal. But the midfielder's effort drifted harmlessly over the bar. Helguson could have confirmed a first win at Deepdale for Rangers in 31 years, but clipped the bar with a looping header.
But Preston responded in the fashion Brown had demanded. Treacy found Nicholson, whose finish was exquisite and, had Kenny not pushed away a fierce drive from Ellington moments later, the home side would have beenin front.
There was late drama with Taarabt hitting a low shot wide and Preston's Leon Cort's hurried blast clearing the bar, with Warnock admitting:"We defended for our lives at the end."