Nottingham Forest made it 14 games unbeaten in all competitions as boss Billy Davies enjoyed a victorious FA Cup return to Preston with a 2-0 fourth-round replay win.
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The Forest manager has now only lost once in 10 meetings with North End, who he twice took to the play-offs in the second tier, in his jobs with his current employers and in a previous post with Derby.
Jamie Mackie had converted the visitors' first real chance of the contest with a fine left-footed shot inside the opening 20 minutes.
However, they were made to weather a second-half storm, needing two last-ditch Jamaal Lascelles blocks and a late Darius Henderson strike before their fifth-round date at Sheffield United could be confirmed.
North End shaded the early exchanges in terms of territory and successive inswinging corners from Lee Holmes and Neil Kilkenny posed questions of Forest stopper Dorus De Vries.
But it was the first corner at the other end which would led to the opener 18 minutes in. Djamel Abdoun's set-piece was only half cleared by Declan Rudd's punch and Lascelles teed up Mackie to arch a left-footed attempt into the top corner from the edge of the area.
It was only the fourth goal of the season for Mackie, a virtual ever present in Forest's impressive run of late and whose industry often makes up for his less-than-prolific return.
Ten minutes later and the visitors should have doubled their advantage yet Simon Cox prodded Matt Derbyshire's cross wide from point-blank range.
It could have proved costly as shortly afterwards Kevin Davies met Holmes' free-kick but De Vries was well-placed to push the half-volley away from danger.
There was certainly no shortage of crosses from the Lilywhites' flanks though the chances failed to materalise, captain John Welsh unable to get good contact on a flighted centre from the left as the half drew to a close.
Respective promotion chases may remain these two sides' main goals but there was plenty of spice to this cup tie, epitomised by Davies' full-blooded challenge on Abdoun late in the first period.
The two made up before the start of the second half and that apology had barely left the ex-Bolton striker's lips when he sent a vicious left-foot strike into the wrong side of De Vries' net.
Goalscorer Mackie then led a one-man crusade past Preston's defence only to blaze over after running out of steam.
While Simon Grayson's men showed no lack of endeavour, half-chances were the best they could muster, Davies nodding wide when off-balance and Kilkenny and Keith Keane both having efforts blocked.
Grayson, sensing the need for fresh impetus, turned to Paul Gallagher and top scorer Joe Garner from the bench and that geed up the crowd, who were further animated when Davies' shot appeared to strike Greg Halford's arm inside the area.
The traffic was all heading towards De Vries' goal now and Scott Wiseman drilled narrowly wide of the post when the chance presented itself 25 yards out.
The hosts would come closer still too as Welsh's shot was spilled straight into Davies' path but Lascelles was in the right place to clear off the line.
And he was crucially well-placed again when Garner dispossessed a Forest defender inside the area only to see Lascelles' sliding block divert it on to the outside of the post.
A second goal never truly looked in the offing for Forest but substitute Henderson lashed home a half-volley deep into stoppage-time to flatter Davies' men somewhat.