Paul McKenna returned to haunt Preston as in-form Nottingham Forest stretched their unbeaten run to 14 Coca-Cola Championship games to move level on points with second-placed West Brom.
McKenna, who spent 12 years at Deepdale before joining Forest for #750,000 in the summer, opened his account for Forest with a crisp finish from 25 yards out.
Striker Dele Adebola scored Forest's second goal in the first half and Lewis McGugan added a third as former Preston boss Billy Davies' side outlined their promotion credentials with an impressive display.
The Reds have now scored 12 goals in their last three home matches and look firmly on course to challenge for automatic promotion.
Forest bossed the first half and they took just 15 minutes to take the lead.
Winger Chris Cohen swung in a corner from the right and Preston goalkeeper Andy Lonergan punched the ball clear to McKenna, who took a touch and unleashed a fine right-footed strike from 20 yards that found the far corner of the net.
Out of respect for his former employers McKenna chose not to celebrate his first goal for Forest, but he was showing no sentiment with a commanding midfield display.
And Forest were two goals to the good after 24 minutes when Robert Earnshaw took a short corner and the ball was worked to Nicky Shorey, whose left-footed cross was turned in by the unmarked Adebola.
Richard Chaplow had an opportunity to pull a goal back but the former West Brom midfielder lashed a shot wide of the near post after breaking into the penalty area.
Preston winger Ross Wallace's cross from the right floated narrowly wide of the far post, but it was Forest who continued to look the more dangerous going forward.
Paul Anderson was a threat on the left flank and after a flowing move he broke into the box but Lonergan got down well to save his left-footed strike.
The Lilywhites almost pulled a goal back six minutes before the break but Forest keeper Lee Camp did well to come out and put pressure on Chris Brown and the ball fell into the path of Billy Jones, who rifled a vicious right-footed drive which the agile Camp turned away for a corner.
Substitute Neil Mellor should have pulled a goal back after 63 minutes when Wallace pulled the ball back from the byline but the strike volleyed over the bar from six eight yards.
Forest almost added a third when Earnshaw raced clear 14 minutes from time, but Lonergan bravely saved to thwart the striker.
But Earnshaw's replacement Lewis McGugan did make it three nine minutes from time when he beat his man on the edge of the area and slotted the ball through Lonergan's legs.
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