Andy Keogh's 94th-minute header spared Cardiff's blushes and broke the hearts of bottom club Preston as the Bluebirds battled back for a 1-1 draw.
Preston had looked set for a stunning victory having arrived in the Welsh capital with just one win in their previous 10 npower Championship outings.
But Cardiff, who lost the top of the table clash with QPR last weekend, salvaged a point to provide a boost to their promotion aspirations, although they have now won just one of their past six games and have fierce rivals Swansea breathing down their necks.
Cardiff started brightly enough but saw the wind taken out of their sails somewhat by the eighth-minute loss of Jay Bothroyd to injury, with Preston seemingly able to weather the hosts` second-half storm.
But to North End`s well-deserved credit, particularly in the first half, it was difficult to tell at times which side were fighting relegation and which competing for promotion.
A drilled low free-kick from on-loan Stoke midfielder Michael Tonge looked to have proved the difference between the two teams midway through the opening 45 minutes, but the pressure remains firmly both on Preston boss Darren Ferguson and counterpart Dave Jones.