Ten man Chesterfield succumbed to a header in each half by Joe Garner having seen Sam Hird dismissed in the second minute, the result seeing them slip out of the play-off zone.
Sheffield United took their place in the top six after a game completely influenced by the early refereeing call by referee Peter Bankes.
Paul Cook had made just one change to the side that won well at Notts County at the weekend; Armand Gnanduillet, who dislocated a couple of fingers at Meadow Lane, was replaced by Byron Harrison for his first start.
North End recalled leading scorer Garner for his first start since November due to injury and popular ex-loanee Daniel Johnson was in a five man midfield, but it was Kevin Davies that all home fans wanted to see. The former England International 800 plus game veteran striker was making his first competitive game against the club where his career started way back in 1993.
Hird nudged a shot from Jay O’Shea’s free kick in the opening minute but it was to be his only positive action as sixty seconds later he was red carded for fouling Garner on the box-edge and referee Bankes felt it was a goal-scoring opportunity so the central defender was dismissed. Charlie Raglan came on for Dan Jones as Spireites moved to three at the back. Tommy Lee saved well to deny Paul Gallagher from the free-kick.
Garner struck the post from the game’s first corner and Lee scooped away the rebound as North End sniffed an opportunity to take control of the game.
Ian Evatt delivered an overhead kick from Spireites first corner before Davies delivered a pinpoint cross right onto the head of Garner who nodded it down beyond Lee.
O’Shea headed inches over just before the break with his side’s best first 45 effort as Spireites struggled to get a foothold in the game, though they were restricting the Lillywhites reasonably well, though North End always looked the most likely side to add to the score-line.
Sam Morsy delivered the host’s first on target effort on 51 and Harrison headed just wide as the game opened up though the visitors continued to look the more dangerous side as Johnson and Garner went extremely close on more than one occasion each.
Garner wrapped up the points with a close range header from a corner after Preston’s initial effort had struck the bar as Spireites appealed for a foul on Lee.