Reading left it late to enhance their promotion chances with a 2-1 win which pushed Preston closer to relegation from the npower Championship.
Jimmy Kebe looked to have put the home side on course for a routine victory with an early goal but an own goal from Royals goalkeeper Alex McCarthy gave North End hope of a point.
But substitute Hal Robson-Kanu poked in an ugly winner which dampened Preston legend Sir Tom Finney's 89th birthday celebrations.
North End were much improved after the break in front of a special banner hailing Finney - star of three World Cups for England and nearly 500 appearances for Preston - but the late goal leaves them eight points adrift of safety.
At the other end Brian McDermott's side moved into the play-off places by beating Portsmouth on Saturday and will be tough opposition for anyone on current form.