A FIRST half to forget from Argyle cost them their fourth successive league defeat in an exciting encounter at Deepdale.
First-half goals from Richard Chaplow and Ross Wallace were the difference between the two sides as Preston ruled the opening period with an iron fist. They created chance after chance, scored twice and perhaps should have been further ahead by the whistle.
Whatever Paul Mariner said at half-time did the trick and Argyle dominated the second 45 but couldn't, for as hard as they tried, find a goal.
Head Coach Paul Mariner had made three enforced changes from the side that lost at Swansea just four days earlier. Injuries to David Gray and Yoann Folly made room for their Tuesday night replacements Darcy Blake and Chris Clark, whilst suspension for Shane Lowry gave Réda Johnson his first start since September.
A change in formation was in order too with the regular 4-4-2 being scrapped in favour of a more attacking 4-4-3, although, in truth, with Judge in the hole and Fletcher covering the defence, it was more of a diamond midfield setup.
After a lively first five minutes with both sets of fans in full voice, it was Preston who were first to create a real scoring chance when Chris Brown's low shot from inside the area was saved well by Larrieu, down low to his right.
But just moments later, Preston took the lead when Chaplow's scuffed shot took a horrible deflection, evaded Romain and his defenders and bounced into the middle of the net.
The early lead definitely spurred the Lilywhites on and with Wallace delivering perfect crosses for the front men from the left flank, they looked more and more dangerous with each attack.
Argyle were struggling to clear their lines but engineered themselves a chance when Jamie Mackie burst through the middle making space for Clark on the left-hand side. The Scotsman struggled to keep up with Mackie's pace though and the chance went begging.
The Pilgrims were given a massive let-off just before the half hour when Jon Parkin's deflected shot fell back nicely to him with Larrieu in a heap on he floor. The Preston fans behind the goal were already celebrating but, for some inexplicable reason, former Stoke man, who scored against Argyle in the same fixture last term, headed straight into Le Keeper's hands.
But Preston doubled their lead just seconds later, the dangerous Wallace smashing home the goal that his performance had deserved.
After the second goal, Argyle finally began to find their rhythm and had Rory Fallon chosen to head and not volley a peach of a cross from Jamie Mackie, then they may have had one back.
Back at the other end and Wallace went close again, turning Blake one way, then the other and then back the other way again before rifling a shot towards goal that was deflected behind by Johnson. North End had the ball in the net from the resulting corner, but it was rightly ruled out for offside.
Clark's cross-come-shot almost fell to Fallon on the edge of the six-yard box just before half-time but even Rory, at 6'4", couldn't get a toe to it.
When the half-time whistle blew, even those watching through the most green-tinted of glasses would have to admit that the Pilgrims had a first-half to forget.
After what must have been a half-time dressing down, Argyle emerged from the break looking a bit brighter and Alan judge did well to run the ball from the halfway line, into the box and get off a shot that hit the side-netting.
Mackie was next to worry Preston - running, running and running some more before seeing his shot tipped just wide.
But anything Argyle could do, so could Preston and the Pilgrims had Gary Sawyer to thank when he headed Paul Parry's looping cross off the line.
It was beginning to be real end-to-end stuff and Duguid was the next to go close for Argyle when his shot was saved well by Preston 'keeper Andy Lonergan.
Fallon went close again soon after when his bullet headed from no more than eight yards was again thwarted by Lonergan.
After Argyle's let-off in the first half, it was now time for Preston's when Gary Sawyer's strike, with the outside of his boot from 20 yards, cannoned off the woodwork and out to Clark whose header goalwards also somehow managed to hit the bar. Mackie then should have done better from Fallon's knockdown before Duguid had a shot blocked.
It was all Argyle and with just 15 minutes to go, on came Noone and Paterson and one felt that a goal in the next few minutes would give the Pilgrims a serious chance of a point.
The two subs immediately made a positive impact when firstly Noone's cross was headed away by Chaplow and then Paterson's header on goal sailed just over before Kári Árnason's 30 yard drive was tipped wide by Lonergan.
Noone and Johnson went close towards the end but Argyle just couldn't find that elusive goal and were made to pay for a poor first-half.
Preston North End: (4-4-2): 1 Andy Lonergan; 27 Eddie Nolan, 6 Neill Collins, 14 Liam Chilvers, 3 Callum Davidson (capt); 17 Paul Parry (7 Chris Sedgwick 68); 4 Richard Chaplow (8 Veliche Shumulikoski 85), 18 Michael Tonge, 25 Ross Wallace; 26 Jon Parkin (33 Neil Mellor 57), 9 Chris Brown. Substitutes (not used): 2 Michael Hart, 11 Darren Carter, 22 Wayne Henderson (gk), 29 Stephen Elliot.
Argyle (4-3-3): 1 Romain Larrieu; 13 Darcy Blake (3 Jim Paterson 78), 22 Réda Johnson, 11 Kári Árnason, 18 Gary Sawyer (17 Craig Noone 78); 2 Karl Duguid, 4 Carl Fletcher (capt), 6 Chris Clark; 25 Alan Judge, 14 Rory Fallon, 8 Jamie Mackie. Substitutes (not used):, , 23 Kyle Letheren (gk), 24 Ashley Barnes, 26 Alan Gow, 31 Yoann Folly, 32 Joe Mason.
Booked: Blake 45
Referee: Michael Oliver (Northumberland).
Attendance: 12,231 (322 away).