In-form Tommy Black fired Crystal Palace firmly back into the play-off race with both goals as Preston were beaten 2-0 at Selhurst Park.
The former Arsenal trainee has inspired a Palace revival since coming into the side with regular strikers Dougie Freedman and Andrew Johnson both injured, netting seven goals in as many matches.
His striker today before and after half-time extended the Eagles' unbeaten league run to five matches - and could well have convinced manager Trevor Francis he is worth a new contract in the summer.
Defeat capped a miserable Christmas for Craig Brown's men, who have now lost all three matches over the festive period and will be looking over their shoulders nervously in the new year.
Palace started brightly and Dele Adebola had a penalty appeal rejected in the fifth minute when he went down under a clumsy challenge by Colin Murdock.
Within a minute, Kit Symons hit the post with a towering header from Danny Butterfield's right-wing cross.
Shell-shocked Preston looked every bit a team who had failed to win away in the league in three months and struggled to make it out of their own half.
Palace were ahead in the 38th minute when Black connected with a right-wing cross from Julian Gray.
Preston goalkeeper David Lucas got a despairing hand to his header, but could only help it into the top of the net.
The visitors rallied through Paul McKenna, but Palace keeper Alex Kolinko was equal to his stinging drive from the edge of the penalty area.
Black could then have doubled the home side's lead just before half-time, with Lucas way off his goalline - but his shot was straight at the Preston keeper.
He made amends in the 55th minute from a free-kick after substitute Aki Riihilahti was brought down by McKenna.
Black stepped up to strike a low shot from the edge of the box around the wall and into the bottom corner.
Palace could have turned this into a hammering if Black's strike partner Adebola had shown a similar killer instinct, but he failed twice in quick succession with only Lucas to beat.
The Preston keeper first pulled off an excellent diving save, but Adebola was wasteful in firing wide moments later when played in by Butterfield.
The visitors offered little hope of a comeback, and Palace could even afford to give Ade Akinbiyi a second run-out in three days following his return from a serious knee injury.