A first-half hat-trick from midfielder Nicky Wroe steered Preston to a 3-2 success at Scunthorpe.
But North End almost threw away a match-winning lead and found themselves hanging on after the struggling Iron reduced their arrears to just one goal. However, they could not find a dramatic equaliser.
Wroe struck first with just 25 seconds on the clock, finishing off a good knock down in the box by Jack King. He struck again in the 28th minute, sweeping home a low cross from the right, with King again the provider.
Seven minutes later he completed his hat-trick from a short free-kick routine, cracking home a shot from the edge of the box that took a deflection to beat goalkeeper Sam Slocombe.
Shell-shocked Scunthorpe, with only one home win all season, hit back after 41 minutes when Leon Clarke, on loan from Charlton, netted his seventh goal in 10 games. The striker forced the ball home at the second attempt after his initial header had been blocked by keeper Steve Simonsen.
The Iron got themselves right back in the game after 72 minutes when Karl Hawley crashed a spectacular 25-yard shot into the back of the net off the inside of a post. It was the first time in 20 games that Scunthorpe had scored more than once in a match. And only a great save by Simonsen then denied Clarke a late equaliser.