A rare Liam Palmer goal – only his second for the Owls in over a decade playing for his boyhood club – was enough to boost Wednesday’s fight against relegation.
And while victory does not paper over the cracks when it comes to the Owls’ problems – both on and off the field – it is a welcome tonic ahead of back-to-back away games this week at Bournemouth and Millwall.
Owls caretaker boss Neil Thompson recalled Osaze Urhoghide, Elias Kachunga and Callum Paterson, following the midweek defeat to Coventry City.
And there was a first Hillsborough start in over a year for Sam Hutchinson, re-signed after a short stint in Cyprus.
The midfielder’s last game at S6 was the demoralising 5-0 defeat to Blackburn Rovers on January 18 2020.
Frozen out by previous boss Garry Monk, then allowed to leave when his contract expired last summer, Hutchinson has returned to offer some defensive nous to the Owls midfield.
Since that Blackburn game, Wednesday have endured a shocking 12 months which has left them scrapping to avoid life in League One next term.
Against Preston, Hutchinson was deployed as the third centre-back as Thompson opted for a 3-5-2 formation.
The hosts had the first sniff of goal after 11 minutes. The ball was recycled from Barry Bannan’s corner, Paterson made space for himself, but fired wide of Daniel Iversen’s left-hand post.
Moments later, Paterson failed to divert Kachunga’s cross goalwards, after good work from Bannan.
At the other end, Keiren Westwood pushed away a long-range strike from Ben Whiteman – the former Doncaster Rovers midfielder – while Hutchinson blocked Scott Sinclair’s effort on goal.
If Hutchinson is something of an Owls veteran, after seven years in South Yorkshire, then Liam Palmer is considered part of the furniture at Hillsborough,
The defender has been at the Owls since he was a schoolboy, and has chalked up over 200 appearances since making his debut in 2010.
The longest serving player at Wednesday, apart from a loan spell at Tranmere Rovers, the 29-year-old has spent his entire career at Hillsborough.
And he came up with a collector’s item when he netted just before half-time.
Paterson’s long throw eventually came to Kachunga, and Palmer was on hand to tap the loose ball home.
It was only his second goal in professional football, his last one coming nearly a decade previously when he netted against MK Dons in League One on September 10 2011.
Preston enjoyed the majority of possession to start the second half, and Westwood was at full stretch to tip away a long-range short from Brad Potts.
Whiteman blazed over, before play switched to the Leppings Lane end and wing-back Palmer – having been released by Bannan – almost netted a second as he drilled a low shot across the face of goal.
Ivsersen had to be at full stretch to flick over Bannan’s fierce drive.
But the Owls players – with Hutchinson, Tom Lees and Urhoghide all superb in a back three – did not short-change anyone at Hillsborough, comfortably holding on for a precious three points.