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.
North End had their moments on the break, with Eddie Johnson and Iain Hume looking lively, but it was the home side dictating play and it was no surprise when they took a 21st-minute lead.
Shane Long tormented emergency right-back Barry Nicholson with a run into the area and when his cross was deflected up and over Iain Turner, Kebe was left with an unmissable header from inside the six-yard box.
Phil Brown's side looked for an early breakthrough in the second half and they found it in the 52nd minute.
Keith Treacy whipped in a dangerous free-kick from the right which Johnson flicked onto the far post. The ball bounced out onto the back of the unlucky McCarthy and into the net.
Harte then rattled the woodwork with a curling strike from 25 yards as Reading piled on the pressure before substitute Robson-Kanu struck with eight minutes remaining. Turner came for a cross from the left and collided with his own defender, leaving the winger to lob the ball in from close range.
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