Alan Browne and Tom Barkhuizen netted in each half to earn Preston a 2-1 victory over relegation-haunted Bolton in a Sky Bet Championship derby at the University of Bolton Stadium.
Irishman Browne struck five minutes from half-time with his 11th goal of the campaign for Alex Neil’s visitors.
North End, unbeaten now in five games, should have eased themselves to victory with further goals before Barkhuizen rounded off a fine individual display with his team’s second after 82 minutes.
Brad Potts also struck an upright with a rasping left-footed drive as North End won for a third time in five outings.
In contrast, Phil Parkinson’s Trotters are winless in seven and dropping like a stone towards League One.
They did fashion a late response after Clayton Donaldson netted in the 90th minute but it was too little, too late for the Trotters.
Bolton started brightly, with Josh Magennis forcing Declan Rudd to save a close-range header and then curling an ambitious 30-yarder just over the crossbar.
North End soon settled into their rhythm and carved out chances on a regular basis.
Browne fired an eighth-minute warning while Wanderers’ cause was not helped after 22 minutes when promising young midfielder Luca Connell was forced off with a leg injury.
Sean Maguire’s delicious lay-off fashioned a shooting opportunity for Barkhuizen, who could not hit the target.
Marc Wilson kicked another effort from underneath his own crossbar to keep the game scoreless.
Wilson headed over from a Gary O’Neil corner as the Trotters briefly threatened in the opposite penalty area.
Instead, North End turned the screw and Browne deservedly put the visitors ahead with an angled and low right-footed shot which went through David Wheater’s legs and beyond keeper Remi Matthews.
Matthews did well to block a Maguire effort after the Preston forward danced away from Wheater before Browne headed over.
Preston continued to dominate possession at the start of the second period, winning a succession of corners but unable to further trouble Matthews.
Magennis’ frustration told when booked for a challenge on Ben Davies before Parkinson made his second change, with Donaldson replacing left-back Jonathan Grounds.
Potts hit a post before Barkhuizen seized on Maguire’s pass to double Preston’s advantage.
Despite their domination, Preston had to hang on for the four minutes of stoppage time after substitute Donaldson tapped in from six yards.
Rudd, virtually redundant for the entire game, then produced a victory protecting save from Magennis.
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