David McGoldrick’s 12th goal of the season wasn’t enough to book Town a place in the Fourth Round.
Blues’ leading scorer found the net from the rebound on 38 minutes after Declan Rudd had saved his initial penalty but Preston struck back immediately through Kevin Davies to set up a replay.
Town made seven changes to the side that drew with Charlton on New Year’s Day, with Scott Loach returning in goal, Anthony Wordsworth making his first start of the season and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake making his Town debut after signing a
contract until the end of the season.
The former Wolves striker didn’t take long to test Rudd, his spin and volley comfortably gathered by the Preston ‘keeper.
Paul Gallagher whipped a shot from the angle just over as Preston shaded the first 15 minutes, then Davies tested Loach with a 25 yarder.
Town had a lucky escape on 20 minutes, Davies crossed from the right and Iain Hume’s close range effort beat Loach but was headed off the line by Luke Chambers.
Town reacted with Frank Nouble firing just wide from 25 yards before Town were forced into an early change with Ebanks-Blake’s debut lasting half an hour, the striker limping off, McGoldrick the replacement.
Chambers’ header was plucked from under his bar by Rudd, Tyrone Mings had a shot charged down for a corner and from the flagkick Town got the breakthrough. Paul Huntington was judged to have handled and though Rudd saved
McGoldrick’s spot-kick, he couldn’t keep out the rebound.
Hume had a great chance to level for Preston immediately but Loach saved from point blank range as North End continued to more than hold their own and they were only behind four minutes before Davies slid home the equaliser from Lee Holmes’ pass just before the break.
Rudd had to be quick off his line to gather Mings’ deflected shot, McGoldrick’s speculative effort from the angle then pushed behind by Rudd.
The Preston ‘keeper got down well to deny McGoldrick again when the ball broke to him on the edge of the box on the hour mark.
Hume had a shot deflected after getting on the end of a long ball, Loach then having to clear the corner at full stretch under his bar.
Town made a second change midway through the second-half with Paul Taylor replacing Jay Tabb.
Taylor’s first touch brought a yellow card for Bailey Wright, the Preston defender late with his challenge, Aaron Cresswell sending a the free-kick over the bar.
Gallagher showed a great touch to leave two Town players out of the game on the edge of the box but he wasted the opportunity, shooting well over the bar.
Cresswell toe-poked the ball away from danger as the former England international looked set to pounce, Wordsworth then making way for Ryan Tunnicliffe. Hume replaced by Joe Garner at the same time as the game approached the last 10 minutes.
Blues threw everything at Preston in the last five minutes and McGoldrick looked certain to win it when he got on the end of Nouble’s cross but Rudd saved superbly to earn his team a replay at Deepdale on Tuesday week.