Charlie Austin’s controversial 90th-minute penalty sent West Bromwich Albion back to the top of the Championship as they snatched a last-gasp victory at Preston.
Preston were adamant keeper Declan Rudd had not touched Baggies substitute Kyle Edwards but referee Oliver Langford pointed to the spot and Austin slotted home to send Albion two points above Leeds.
The spot-kick gave West Brom a fifth successive victory but they left it late at Deepdale as injury-hit Preston, without a host of players including their entire first-choice back line, looked set to earn a point.
Instead, Alex Neil’s men saw their unbeaten home record ended and they remain sixth, just inside the play-off places but 11 points behind the table-topping Baggies.
Preston’s depleted defence had performed well to limit West Brom, the Championship’s top scorers and now unbeaten in nine matches, to efforts from distance for much of the game.
Rudd denied Nathan Ferguson and Matt Phillips from distance in a one-sided first half while Kyle Bartley spurned West Brom’s only real clear-cut chance, side-footing a Phillips free-kick wide from close range.
North End, however, were not content to settle for a point and leading scorer Daniel Johnson’s 20-yard strike forced a fine fingertip save from Baggies keeper Sam Johnstone after the break.
But as stoppage time approached, Edwards latched on to a hopeful ball over the top and went down in the area despite Rudd seeming to do his best to pull out of the challenge.
Austin coolly stroked home the penalty – his third goal in as many games – to condemn Preston to a third-straight defeat after losses at Derby and Hull.
Albion, meanwhile, now boast the division’s best away record with seven wins and just one defeat from 10 games as they became the first side to keep a clean sheet at Deepdale this season.
Preston boss Alex Neil told BBC Radio Lancashire:
“When it’s a last-minute goal you concede, it certainly makes it worse that it’s a really contentious decision as well. If it was a little bit of quality from them, it would be more palatable.
“It certainly wasn’t a vintage performance from us but we set up in a manner that I felt gave us the best chance of getting a win or getting something from the game, because we had so many players missing.
“I thought we were really comfortable in the second half, I don’t think they had a shot on target but then the penalty decision swings the game.
“It doesn’t look like a penalty to me. For how hard they worked, and how little space and time they gave some really good players in Albion’s team, I thought we deserved something from the match.”
West Brom manager Slaven Bilic told BBC WM 95.6:
“In the first half we were very dominant, we just lacked quality in the final third and I told the guys just raise the tempo and be patient.
“In the second half Preston improved and had their moments but the game changed in the final 20 minutes and we camped in their half of the pitch, and if any team deserved to win it was us.
“You can’t imagine how big a result this is for us because Preston is a very difficult place to come and play.”