Kevin Nolan claimed a typically predatory 74th-minute winner to fire Newcastle back to the top of the Coca-Cola Championship.
The former Bolton skipper moved the Magpies two points clear of West Brom with a clinical low left-footed drive - his ninth goal of the season - to send the huge army of Magpies supporters into raptures.
Nolan endured a nightmare campaign last season after joining Newcastle in January and becoming part of the side that slid out of the Barclays Premier League in such dismal fashion.
Yet he is doing his best to ensure the Tyneside outfit make an immediate return to the promised land by recapturing the goalscoring form and drive which once saw him tipped to win full England honours.
Alan Smith, another player who looks back to his best, played a pivotal role alongside Nolan in the middle of the park. The Magpies skipper showed his stomach for the fight remains firmly intact with a fine display.
Defeat was on harsh on Preston, who gave Newcastle several worrying moments but lacked the kind of killer finish Nolan provided.
The 27-year-old always has one on the opposition goal and in the 14th minute he showed neat footwork to evade the attention of a couple of Preston players and strike a fierce shot from 25 yards which warmed Andy Lonergan's hands.
Moments later, Preston midfielder Richard Chaplow engineered the space to drive a neat low shot just wide of Steve Harper's goal from distance.
Michael Tonge, handed a debut in midfield for Preston after joining on loan from Stoke, then slashed a left-foot shot narrowly over the crossbar.
For all Newcastle's undoubted class and experience, Preston continued to worry the visiting defence, and in the 17th minute Neil Mellor was afforded the time to rifle a low shot into Harper's midriff at his near post.
The hosts looked particularly dangerous down the flanks and Chris Sedgwick's hanging cross was headed on to the top of the net by fellow winger Paul Parry.
Smith then rifled the ball just wide in the 37th minute but five minutes later Preston threatened again when Danny Guthrie surrendered possession 35 yards from goal.
Chaplow, having spotted Harper off his line, chipped the ball goalwards but his effort sailed just over the crossbar.
Preston were dealt a bitter blow on the stroke of half-time when Youl Mawene was forced off after sustaining medial ligament damage to his right knee.
His replacement was Liam Chilvers but he was almost caught cold within minutes of the restart when Andy Carroll rifled a low shot just wide.
With 16 minutes remaining, the points went to Newcastle as Guthrie crossed from the right flank and Marlon Harewood showed strength to find Nolan lurking on the left corner of the penalty box.
He showed delightful skill to strike a low, left-footed shot into the bottom corner and send Newcastle back to the Championship's summit.
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