If Peter Taylor, the Brighton manager, believed that this was a chance to taste some FA Cup success after last season's Wycombe-inspired humiliation while he was with Leicester, he underestimated the desire and determination of his First Division opponents, who had a comfortable victory wrapped up just after the hour last night.
It was an evening of crushing disappointment at both ends of the field for the Sussex side. The prolific Bobby Zamora missed a first-half penalty in front of the interested Everton manager Walter Smith and the debutant goalkeeper Will Packham gifted Preston their second goal.
With Zamora misfiring it was left to the newly-recruited Frenchman Erik Skora to take centre stage. He scored the opening goal a cool finish from David Healy's lofted pass in the 16th minute ensuring he lived up to his name and gave a performance combining strength and skill to help Preston dominate midfield and earn themselves a fourth-round home tie with Sheffield United.
Zamora is considerably further down the road than Skora in the fear he spreads among defenders, but this was not one of his best nights. Taylor said he could play "ten times better than this" and is lacking confidence. Nevertheless, Smith may still decide to offer £4m for his services.
Preston were clearly prepared for a rigorous examination and breathed aggressive defiance from the start. Colin Murdock had seen a header cleared off the line even before Skora supplied the early lead.
Zamora's persistence might have earned an equaliser. Instead a defender blocked his shot. Another chance arrived as Daniel Webb was nudged over as he contested the corner. However, Zamora's weak penalty enabled David Lucas to save and ruin the youngster's record of scoring in every FA Cup tie that he has played in.
Brighton exerted heavy pressure at the end of the first half and their fans wanted to believe they could turn things around. However, on 63 minutes Jon Macken tried his luck from 22 yards and Packham let the ball slip through his gloves. At least it clears Brighton's path for a concerted promotion push.
Brighton (4-4-2): Packham; Watson, Cullip, Morgan, Mayo; Hart, Carpenter, Oatway (Jones, 56), Brooker; Zamora, Webb (Steele, 61). Substitutes not used: Melton, Virgo, Pethick.
Preston (4-4-2): Lucas; Alexander, Lucketti, Murdock, Edwards; Skora, McKenna, Keane, Anderson (Barry-Murphy, 85); Healy (Robinson, 90), Macken (Basham, 79). Substitutes not used: Moilanen (gk), Eaton.
Referee: R Harris (Isle of Wight).Reuse content