By Jack Wynne – Sports Editor
Greg Cunningham scored the winner against his former club, helping PNE to secure a 2-1 victory over Bristol City at Ashton Gate.
North End have now picked up three consecutive victories in the Championship, moving up two places into 13th.
Eight minutes into the second half, Paul Gallagher’s cross was diverted by Nathan Baker into the back of his own goal to hand North End the lead.
PNE were in front for just three minutes, Sam Johnstone unable to prevent Aaron Wilbraham’s deflected effort from ending up in the back of the net.
As the match entered the final stages, Preston took the lead through another headed goal, Cunningham directing the ball past O’Donnell.
PNE manager Simon Grayson rang the changes from the defeat in the FA Cup at the weekend, bringing in six new players.
Goalkeeper Sam Johnstone replaced Chris Kirkland, whilst Marnick Vermijl and Josh Brownhill were replaced by Bailey Wright and Calum Woods.
Daniel Johnson and Gallagher returned to the starting XI, with Alan Browne dropping to the bench whilst John Welsh failed to recover from a dead leg picked up at the weekend.
New signing Ben Pearson, also made his debut, replacing Middlesbrough loanee Adam Reach.
O’Donnell replaced Frank Fielding in goal in what was the only change from the Bristol City side which held West Brom to a 2-2 draw in the FA Cup at the weekend.
27 minutes played, Johnson and Gallagher exchanged some neat passes before Gallagher took aim from distance but his shot flew narrowly wide.
Not long after the half hour mark, Joe Bryan showed quick feet to beat Tom Clarke before hitting the ball over the bar.
Gallagher tried to break the deadlock just before the interval with a long-range effort but Bristol goalkeeper O’Donnell was equal to it.
Into the second half, Jonathan Kodija looked to force a save from Johnstone but his shot was too close to the PNE stopper, following Bryan’s cross.
53 minutes gone, Baker scored an own goal to hand the visitors a lead early into the second half , heading Gallagher’s cross past O’Donnell.
City were back level three minutes later, Wilbraham’s shot from inside the box taking a deflection and ending up in the back of the net.
At the other end, Johnson had a chance to put North End back in front but his shot struck the post after being one-on-one with O’Donnell.
Substitute Bobby Reid tried his luck from long range but Johnstone did brilliantly to push his curled effort away from goal.
Ten minutes before the end of normal time, Cunningham gave PNE the lead, heading the ball against the post and into the back of the net.
Into the 5th minute of six added on at the end of the second half, Kodija had the chance to score a late equalizer but headed Reid’s cross against the post.
Grayson admitted after the final whistle is team can be resilient and hard to beat but that there are also match winners in the squad at the same time.
“We select a team to make life difficult for the opposition, but we also know we have good players capable of winning games.
“After we scored we were a bit sloppy for their equaliser, but after that the lads showed great character and we hit the post before grabbing the winner” he told BBC Sport.
Bristol City: O’Donnell, Little (Burns 77), Ayling, Flint, Baker, Bryan, Smith, Pack, Freeman (Reid 57), Wilbraham (Agard 77), Kodjia. Subs not used: O’Leary, El-Abd, Williams, Wagstaff
PNE: Johnstone, Clarke, Huntington, Wright, Cunningham, Woods (Vermijl 89), Johnson, Gallagher, Pearson (Browne 82), Garner, Doyle (Robinson 72). Subs not used: Kirkland, Kilkenny, Hugill, Brownhill
Referee: James Linington (Isle of White)
Attendance: 14,586 (346 PNE)