Birthday boy Aiden McGeady inspired Preston to a 5-0 victory as they ran riot against relegation threatened Bristol City.
Tom Barkhuizen opened the scoring for the home side on 25 minutes with a cool finish inside the area to give Preston the lead.
McGeady’s penalty and then Tom Clarke’s header extended the lead after the half time interval before Callum Robinson’s brace rounded off a perfect evening for Preston.
The win keeps North End’s slim promotion hopes alive as they cut the gap to five points with six games remaining.
The game began at a quick pace with both sides posing a threat in front of goal. Paul Gallagher forced the first save of the game from Frank Fielding with a strike from 25 yards out before Cotterill fired over for the away side.
Preston should have taken the lead on 12 minutes when Robinson was played in down the right. He put the ball on a plate for McGeady but the Irishman fired straight at Fielding when he should have scored.
The save woke Bristol City up and they began to take control of the game as the Lilywhites struggled to retain possession but they didn’t test Maxwell aside from a Cotterill effort straight at PNE’s number 22.
It was the home side who took the lead, however, as McGeady slipped through Robinson and the no.37 cut the ball back for Barkhuizen who slotted the ball into the back of the net.
Bristol City nearly replied instantly as Bailey Wright, returning to Deepdale after his January move, fired a drive low from the edge of the area and Maxwell had to react quickly to keep it out.
The home side then began to wrestle back the momentum of the game and both McGeady and Robinson guided efforts just wide of the City goal before half time.
The Lilywhites doubled their advantage with their first attack of the second half as Robinson turned in the area before being brought down by Aden Flint.
McGeady stepped up to take the penalty and made no mistake as he fired his spot-kick high into the left corner to double Preston’s lead.
North End continued to pile on the pressure and were rewarded with a third goal when Tom Clarke rose highest to head home Gallagher’s freekick on 54 minutes.
The goals kept on coming and a superb ball from Gallagher released Barkhuizen who squared it perfectly for Robinson who tapped the ball into an empty net to make it four.
Robinson then added another and Preston’s fifth minutes later as Bristol City failed to clear the ball in their own area. It fell to Robinson, who was only five yards out, and he calmly converted giving Fielding no chance.
It could have been even more with Preston continuing to bombard the away side’s goal. McGeady was very unfortunate not to add his second of the game but Fielding produced a stunning save to deny him.
Bristol City carved some half chances out in the final stages but ultimately it was a night to forget for them and one Preston fans will remember for some time.