Stoke secured a second consecutive win and dragged Preston into the relegation fight with a 2-1 win at home to the Lilywhites.
Brynjar Gunnarsson and Peter Hoekstra struck twice in a two-minute period just before the interval to lift Stoke to within a point of fourth-from-bottom Grimsby.
Both striker Richard Cresswell and goalkeeper David Lucas were taken off as Preston lost their fourth successive game. And Pawel Abbott's goal in injury-time proved too little, too late for the visitors.
Craig Brown lost his first-choice goalkeeper at half-time with an injury, but will be even more concerned about the potential loss of 11-goal Cresswell, who limped off midway through the first half.
With Ricardo Fuller out with a long-term injury it could mean Preston trying to halt their slide without their two joint-top scorers.
Stoke grabbed their first win in 17 games on Saturday, and it was important that they follow up that success as Sheffield Wednesday had won earlier on New Year's Day to draw level on points with the Potters.
Tony Pulis kept faith with his winning side and saw them dominate the opening period. Chris Iwelumo came close to his fourth goal in as many games when his header from Peter Handyside's seventh minute free-kick was blocked en route to goal by Graham Alexander.
And Belarus international defender Sergei Shtanuk came up from the back to threaten eight minutes later. Peter Hoekstra delivered a free-kick and Shtanuk's power header was kept out superbly by Lucas.
The visitors were restricted to long-range chances in the first period, Alexander firing wide from 25 yards with an early effort, and saw their attacking options further reduced on 26 minutes when Creswell had to go off.
They were still trying to adapt to the reshuffle when James O'Connor drilled a volley from outside the area that was only just wide.
Having looked as though they would hold out until the interval, though, Preston were then hit by a triple blow in the final two minutes of the first half.
First Icelandic international Gunnarsson produced his second important strike in as many games to put Stoke in front.
Gunnarsson latched on to Chris Iwelumo's knock-down header after Marcus Hall's superb run and cross to break the deadlock in the 44th minute.
With the celebrations still echoing around the Britannia Stadium, Dutchman Hoekstra collected a pass from Iwelumo and rifled the ball past David Lucas for a second goal.
Picking the ball out of the net was to be Lucas' last involvement as he failed to make the second half, Tepi Moilanen being sent on in his place.
Brown's team, already showing three changes following the defeat to Crystal Palace on Saturday, needed the platform of an early goal in the second period but Marlon Broomes' header from six yards was kept out by Steve Banks as Stoke strove to collect only their second clean sheet of the season.
Banks tipped round an Alexander free-kick eight minutes into the half, before 60 seconds of frantic activity that could have seen both teams find the net.
First Eddie Lewis' cross was met by substitute Abbott, whose close-range volley thumped against the woodwork with Banks well beaten.
Stoke cleared the rebound, and when the ball found its way through to Hoekstra the former Holland international drilled a left-foot shot from the edge of the area that was again only kept out by the woodwork.
Preston found a way through 90 seconds into injury time, at the end of a short burst of pressure. Lewis' cross saw Abbott head goalwards but Banks tipped the ball over.
The corner was twice half-cleared by the Stoke defence but the third time Abbott smacked home from close range.