sheffield UNITED’S promotion charge marched on when two goals by Ched Evans brought them from behind to beat Preston.
United, naming the same starting 11 which kicked-off against Huddersfield Town in midweek, found their rhythm in the 12th minute when Evans darted through but could not collect his colleague’s pass.
The Wales international was involved again soon after when Flynn weaved his way through a crowd of white shirts on the edge of North End’s box and found Quinn.
His delicate touch pierced the visitors’ rearguard but Evans’ centre was blocked.
Jean-Francois climbed highest from the resulting corner but his header flew over.
United continued to dominate but, although Flynn and Lowton’s double-act impressed, could not engineer a chance of note.
There was a worrying development in the 24th minute when McDonald, whose technique and vision has proved so instrumental in helping transform United’s style of play this season, was forced to limp-off after pulling-up clutching the back of his leg.
Montgomery, a much more combative presence, entered the fray but, three minutes later, United’s frustrations worsened when Stuckmann saved his fifth spot-kick of the season although Evans’attempt, after Brown had hauled him back from Lowton’s long ball over-the-top, was woefully weak.
Stuckmann denied Cresswell in the 34th minute - this time with his legs - after Lowton and Evans had burrowed through and United’s misery was compounded in the 38th when CUMMINS headed home Hunt’s first time centre to claim his first goal in the English game.
But North End’s lead last only six minutes. Maguire launched the ball forward and after touches from Cresswell and Quinn, Flynn’s shot was parried and EVANS prodded home.
Preston were not willing to make life easy for United by deploying an expansive and open game.
Cresswell and Evans combined expertly in the 51st minute when the latter’s neat flick enabled his strike-partner to spin-off the shoulder of Brown and charge towards goal although the North End defender demonstrated commendable persistence to recover and clear.
United attempted to apply some pressure just before the hour mark with Quinn and Flynn both launching crosses into the North End area only to see their efforts repelled.
Lowton, once again a real tour-de-force going forward, saw a powerful shot blocked following a driving run seconds before McLaughlin replaced Nicholson on the hour.
The contest became increasingly fractious as the afternoon progressed.
Barton drilled wide after receiving the ball from Cummins as North End mounted a 66th minute attack.
Not for the first time, United were struggling to break their opponents resolve and, two minutes later, Williamson was introduced at Flynn’s expense.
North End might have been indulging in plenty of gamesmanship.
But they were also working like dogs.
Williamson’s first contribution was to win a header which appeared to have released Evans but the United striker was penalised for impeding Robertson.
Jean-Francois nearly engineered a 79th minute breakthrough after finding Williamson with his back to goal in the area.
The United substitute laid the ball off the Evans but his attempt was also blocked.
Sixty seconds later they was a double change with Beattie coming on for United and Douglas entering the fray for North End.
Cresswell and Cummins were the men to make way and the match exploded immediately into life.
In the 81st minute, Stuckmann produced a simply wonderful save to deny Lowton before Brown cleared Beattie’s follow-up off the line.
When the resulting corner was only half-cleared, EVANS’ unstoppable thunderbolt blasted United into the lead.
North End swapped Barton for Murphy but to no avail as United secured the “positive” result Wilson had demanded before next weekend’s Steel City derby.