Preston 0-1 Burnley
The Clarets returned to the top of the Championship with a huge win over rivals Preston at Deepdale.
A deflected sixth minute free-kick from Joey Barton proved to be enough as the Clarets took another big massive step forward in their bid for promotion.
Burnley could have had the game wrapped up by half time, as a series of chances came and went.
But they were forced to see the game out for an 18th clean sheet of the season that helped the club set a post-war record of 21 games without defeat in a single season.
And two more wins would now see Burnley return to the top flight.
On a night for cool heads, it was a perfect start from the Clarets.
Following an earlier effort - where George Boyd saw his tight angled strike fly past the far post – the Clarets took the advantage from another set-piece.
Barton stepped up to take the 25-yard free-kick, and with a slice of luck of a heavy deflection, the midfielder’s curling effort wrong-footed Chris Kirkland to give Burnley an early lead.
That lead could have been easily extended throughout the first half, as the Clarets completely dominated proceedings.
Barton’s free-kick again caused chaos in the Preston box, as the swinging set-piece from the right found Andre Gray, however the forward couldn’t steer his thunderous header on target from eight-yards.
Midway through the half, a 50/50 tackle between Kirkland and Sam Vokes then spilled out to Dean Marney 30-yards out.
The midfielder saw the open goal and chose a first-time volley, however the strike agonisingly crept inches wide of the unguarded net.
With 15 minutes to play of the half, and with the Clarets continuing to dominate, another Barton delivery went amiss.
This time the midfielder’s free-kick - from a slightly deeper position to the opener – was arrowed to the penalty spot, where a firm header from Ben Mee grazed the far post.
Great skill from Boyd brought yet another chance, with the winger beating Greg Cunningham to find Scott Arfield at the edge of the box.
The Canadian international saw his side-footed strike blocked straight to Gray, only for another last-ditch clearance to deniy Burnley a two-goal advantage going into the break.
Former Leeds United forward Jermaine Beckford came close to levelling matters straight from the restart, heading over the bar from Cunningham’s pin-point cross.
However the woodwork came to Preston’s rescue 10 minutes later on two occasions!
First, Gray was played-in down the right channel, and with a strike the only option, a thunderous effort rifled off the foot of the post, before the Clarets surged forward once again.
Preston half-cleared, and when Boyd collected 30-yards out, he smashed another strike off the crossbar, setting up a tense remaining 15 minutes.
And in a late flurry, Preston almost made the Clarets rue their earlier misses, forcing a fine save from Burnley’s captain.
Beckford’s fine hold-up play teed up substitute Daniel Johnson, and the former Aston Villa winger saw his diagonal strike wonderfully parried to safety.
Hearts were pounding in away end where 5,630 were in full-voice, as a free-kick was awarded in stoppage-time.
But from a short free kick, Callum Robinson’s volley dipped inches over the crossbar and the points were in the bag!
Burnley: Heaton; Lowton, Keane, Mee, Ward; Boyd, Marney (Jones 93), Barton, Arfield; Vokes, Gray (Barnes 78)
Subs: Robinson, Taylor, Dyer, Tarkowski, Darikwa.
Goals: Barton 6’
Yellow: Marney 43’, Lowton 45’, Gray 74’, Barton 80’, Mee 82’
Preston: Kirkland, Cunningham, Pearson (Johnson 10), Clarke, Wright, Beckford, Gallagher, Garner (Hugill 75), Woods, Browne (Robinson 84), Reach
Subs: Hudson, Kilkenny, Huntinghton, Smith.
Yellow: Garner 45’, Wright 60’ Robinson 90’
Referee: Mr. K Friend
Attendance: 17,789 (5,630 away)