Ipswich missed their chance to move back into the Championship top two as they fell to a 3-2 defeat at Preston.
A week after being embarrassed by non-league Maidstone in the FA Cup, the Tractor Boys were unable to restore their pride as they capitulated in what proved to be a nightmare first half at Deepdale thanks to a Will Keane brace and George Edmundson’s own goal.
Debutant Kieffer Moore came off the bench after half-time and bagged two goals to threaten a dramatic comeback late on, but Preston hung on for a victory which eased them back closer to the play-off places.
The writing was on the wall for Ipswich almost from the first whistle and Liam Millar had already gone close by the time Preston notched their opener after five minutes.
Keane grabbed it, firing home from 20 yards via a hefty deflection off defender Edmundson after he had met Ben Whiteman’s pass.
It got even worse for the unfortunate Edmundson just three minutes later. With Emil Riis darting on to Keane’s smart through-ball, Edmundson got a foot in to tackle, only to direct the ball past goalkeeper Vaclav Hladky and into the gaping goal.
Ipswich looked all at sea but did manage to steady the ship somewhat, although by the half-hour mark they still had not troubled North End keeper Freddie Woodman.
At the other end, Preston had gone off the boil slightly but Ryan Lowe’s men managed to add a third six minutes before the break.
This time Mads Frokjaer pounced on an awful pass out from the decidedly shaky Hladky, with the ball eventually springing out for Keane to easily slot home his second from close range.
Ipswich had clearly endured a stern talking-to from boss Kieran McKenna at the break and they almost reduced the deficit soon after the restart.
Leif Davis took aim from a free-kick but his shot bounced out off a post.
As the hour mark passed, Jeremy Sarmiento tried his luck from distance but Woodman was equal to the task and saved competently.
Substitute Moore, making his debut following his midweek loan switch from Bournemouth, also headed just off target and it was looking like it was not going to be Ipswich’s day, until the same player gave them hope after 74 minutes, leaping highest to nod home Davis’s cross.
When Moore tapped home to make it 3-2 with three minutes left, there were gasps of concern from the home faithful, but Preston hung to secure an eye-catching win.