Preston North End 3 Sheffield Wednesday 3 – The Owls’ play-off hopes are over after six-goal thriller at Deepdale
Sheffield Wednesday's play-off hopes are over, despite a thrilling, extraordinary second half fightback against Preston North End.
Steve Bruce's men trailed 2-0 at half-time and were booed off by some Wednesdayites/
The Lilywhites appeared in complete control after strikes from Jay Stockley and an own goal by Owls skipper Tom Lees.
But Barry Bannan scored his second goal in as many matches to reduce Wednesday's arrears in the 49th minute.
Alan Browne restored Preston's two-goal cushion just after the hour mark.
However, the introduction of Atdhe Nuhiu helped swing things the Owls' way. The big striker set up Fernando Forestieri for Wednesday's second before getting on the scoresheet himself.
Preston, who entered the contest having lost five of their previous six matches, created the first chance of note. Callum Robinson collected Stockley's neat knock down and tried his luck from long range but Cameron Dawson, standing in goal for the third match running in the absence of Keiren Westwood, was equal to it.
Fresh from his superb display in the Easter Monday victory over Bristol City, Barry Bannan unleashed a fierce left foot shot that Connor Ripley expertly turned away.
But the hosts broke the deadlock in the ninth minute and it was sloppy, uncharacteristic defending from the Owls. Captain Tom Lees bundled Stockley to the ground and Paul Gallagher played a free-kick out to Robinson on the left. His dangerous cross was flicked on by Alan Browne and Stockley headed home inside the six-yard box.
Set pieces continued to cause Wednesday problems, with Ben Davies steering a header just over the bar from another Gallagher dead ball.
Preston grew in confidence after Stockley's opener and Republic of Ireland Robinson was proving a real thorn in the Owls' side. His pace and trickery gave Wednesday's defence plenty to think about and his low drive was parried by Dawson, with Michael Hector hacking away the loose ball.
After a sluggish opening, the Owls almost grabbed an equaliser in the 32nd minute. Steven Fletcher, one of five changes made by boss Steve Bruce, raced on to Bannan's exquisite pass but Ripley kept out his venomous shot with his legs.
It proved a big moment as Preston increased their advantage in the 36th minute. Joe Rafferty's cut back hit Hector, the ball looped up in the air and Lees nodded into his own net.
With their tails up, the Lilywhites pressed for a third. Robinson drove towards the byline and picked out Sean Maguire in the middle and the striker slid in and poked it off target.
Wednesday's players were booed off at half-time after a lacklustre showing.
Bruce resisted the temptation to make any personnel changes but whatever he said at the interval worked a treat as Bannan reduced the deficit four minutes after the restart. The 29-year-old drilled a left foot piledriver into the top corner after a clever back heel into his path by Matias.
Bruce's troops played at a higher tempo and with more energy, urgency and aggression, forcing Preston on to the back foot. Liam Palmer cut in from the left and saw his strike deflected behind as the Owls enjoyed a good spell of pressure.
But Wednesday were caught by a sucker-punch at the other end just after the hour mark when Brown restored the Lilywhites two-goal cushion. He latched on to Maguire's flick before rifling a shot past Dawson.
Bruce threw caution to the wind by taking off the ineffective Josh Onomah and putting on Atdhe Nuhiu.
And it was Nuhiu who created the Owls' second in the 76th minute. He whipped in a glorious cross which was glanced in by Fernando Forestieri.
Moments later, Nuhiu completed a remarkable turnaround. The Kosovo international shrugged off his marker to head home Bannan's cross to spark wild scenes in the away end.
Both teams pushed for a winner and Lees produced a last-ditch challenge to block Maguire's close range strike.
Iorfa was then shown a straight red card for a clumsy foul on Darnell Fisher.
Despite their numerical disadvantage, the Owls could have snatched maximum points at the death but substitute Lucas Joao's volley was cleared away by Ben Davies before Palmer hooked the ball over the bar.
Preston; Ripley; Rafferty (Huntington 90), Storey, Davies, Fisher; Gallagher, Johnson, Browne (Nmecha 74), Robinson (Ginnelly 87); Maguire, Stockley. Substitutes: Rudd, Earl,Moult, Baxter.
Owls: Dawson; Iorfa, Lees, Hector, Palmer; Onomah (Nuhiu 67), Pelupessy, Bannan, Matias; Fletcher (Joao 77), Forestieri (Lee 84). Substitutes: Wildsmith, Fox, Boyd, Hooper.
Referee: Jeremy Simpson (Lancashire)