Alex Mendy scored the winning penalty to take Chesterfield into their first ever regional final of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.
After Craig Westcarr, who’d equalised Jamie McCombe’s early goal, had the first 12 yarder saved by Thorsten Stuckmann, parity was restored when veteran Graham Alexander hit his effort high.
Tommy Lee, back in goal for the first time since mid-September, saved Paul Coutts’ effort to give the Frenchman his moment of glory to cap a fine game played in awful conditions.
Six corners in the opening 15 minutes, three each, gave a good impression of the frenetic start and from the sixth of those flag kicks, delivered by Danny Mayor, McCombe headed in from close range to mark his home debut.
Aaron Downes had to make a stunning block to prevent a Jamie Proctor ball reaching Mellor and the value of that was clear moments later when a Drew Talbot shot was parried by the keeper and Westcarr was well placed to slip the rebound home.
Westcarr almost added to his tally, curling a shot within a whisker from an Alex Mendy cross.
The back to form Downes had to work well again to chest a Mellor effort away after a Talbot error and Paul Coutts drilled a 25 yard effort just too high as Preston again enjoyed some hefty possession but from the goal kick the ball broke for Westcarr who hit the post from distance.
Morgan had an eight yard shot blocked for a corner after Westcarr squared it for him as the entertainment level of the game remained high.
Proctor and Whitaker exchanged shots early in the second half as the rain continued to pour down.
Ford had to cut out a Coutts cross after he’d erred seconds earlier and Lee had to gather a low shot from the same Preston man as the surface became more slippery and the contest increasingly cagey.
Lee had to make a fine stop, reaching high to paw out an inadvertent goal bound flick off Downes as the business end of the game approached. Bowery then, at full stretch, hit wide from a Morgan cross, his last action as he was replaced by Leon Clarke.
Mellor had back to back chances, Lee saved magnificently from the first and he drilled the second just wide as the rain reached monsoon proportions.
Clarke dragged a shot wide and saw a close range effort go straight to Stuckmann and Mellor saw a header saved by Lee as the game ended at the same speed it had started and the penalties and Chesterfield celebrations followed.
Preston (4-4-2): Stuckmann 6, Gray 6, C.Morgan 6, McCombe 7, Perry 6, Doyle 8, Alexander 6, Coutts 7, Mayor 7, Mellor 7, Proctor 7. Subs (not used): Arestidou, Carlisle, Daley, McLoughlin, Smith.
Goal: McCombe 15. Pens: Parry (scored), Mellor (scored), Alexander (missed), Coutts (saved).
Chesterfield: (4-4-2): Lee 8, Talbot 7 (Mattis 90+3), Downes 9, Ford 6, Griffiths 6, Westcarr 7, Allott 6, Whitaker 6, Mendy 7, Bowery 6 (Clarke 77), D.Morgan 6. Subs (not used): Fleming, Lester, Obadeyi.
Goal: Westcarr 25. Pens: Westcarr (saved), Whitaker (scored), Clarke (scored), Morgan (scored), Mendy (scored).
Booked: Talbot (Chesterfield), C.Morgan, Mellor (Preston)
Ref: Mark Haywood (West Yorks)