It is likely to be a fine margin of error which eventually separates the teams chasing the First Division play-off places come the end of the season, and should Preston fail to make it to the Cardiff extravaganza, their goalkeeper Tepi Moilanen may have cause to ponder that more than most.
Three second half goals including one of the most comical own goals seen at Carrow Road for a long time kept Norwich in the thick of the play-off picture, whilst simultaneously denting Preston's own hopes.
A disappointing encounter looked to be heading for a draw when the Norwich captain, Iwan Roberts, opened the scoring with a powerful header on 61 minutes to mark a triumphant return after seven weeks on the sidelines with a knee injury.
That goal set the scene for a pulsating last half an hour, with Norwich making the point safe in bizarre fashion 10 minutes from the end.
There seemed no danger as the Preston defender Brian Alexander tapped a tame pass back towards his goalkeeper Moilanen, who was under absolutely no pressure. But the Finnish international, attempting to control the ball, missed it completely and watched in horror as it trickled under his foot and over the goalline.
That knocked the stuffing out of the visitors and their misery was complete three minutes from time when Phil Mulryne beat Moilanen at his near post with a curling free-kick.
In truth it was no more than Norwich deserved as Preston fell apart towards the end. The visitors were, however, denied a late consolation goal when Robert Green turned David Healy's goalbound free-kick just round the upright.
Norwich City: Green; Nedergaard, Mackay, Fleming, Sutch, Rivers (Notman, 61), Mulryne, Holt, McVeigh, I Roberts, Nielsen (Benjamin, 80). Substitutes not used: Crichton, A Roberts, McGovern.
Preston North End: Moilanen; Alexander, Lucketti, Gregan, Edwards, McKenna (Basham, 71), Keane (Skora, 82), Etuhu, Anderson (Gudjonsson, 66), Cresswell, Healy. Substitutes not used: Lucas, Eaton, Basham, Skora.
Referee: B Knight (Orpington).Reuse content