Sean Maguire and Emil Riis struck late as Preston put the seal on a 4-1 win over Cheltenham in the Carabao Cup.
It was the first-ever meeting between the two teams and a first appearance in a Preston shirt for Connor Wickham but his debut lasted only seven minutes before he limped off the park, replaced by Maguire.
Despite few early chances, Preston’s Riis always looked a threat. With his team-mates looking to find him at every opportunity, he was disappointed with an air shot on the volley with his first real effort after being found by Maguire.
When Joe Rafferty had a drive parried by Owen Evans just before the half-hour – followed by a flurry of other chances – it looked like the pattern of the night may be set.
And that was reaffirmed only a minute later when North End’s Andrew Hughes nodded home the opener from Ben Whiteman’s in-swinging corner.
They added a second 10 minutes later when captain Greg Cunningham swung in a ball that fell at the feet of Rafferty who managed to poke it into the bottom corner from close range.
Just before half-time, Whiteman should have made it three in a move that started when Cheltenham’s Dylan Barkers was shrugged off the ball and Whiteman fired just wide after a deflection.
Another debutant in Preston’s Ali McCann was immaculate, the home faithful purring with his quick feet and sharp movement in the middle of the park transferring his form south of the border from St Johnstone.
As the game was drifting towards an inevitable conclusion, out of nowhere the Robins gave themselves a shot.
Kyle Vassell had been on the pitch only three minutes when he pounced on a loose ball and smashed a volley into the roof of the net from the angle.
And the number nine, who enjoyed an earlier spell at Blackpool, was thriving. Two near misses and a pinpoint through ball later, he had revived the Robins who were much improved in the final third.
But the Championship side responded with Maguire, Whiteman and Riis all going close before Maguire drilled into the bottom corner on the turn to send North End into the next round.
Riis then underlined the gap in divisions between the sides by driving a high-quality finish into the bottom corner from the edge of the area.
When is the draw for the Carabao Cup fourth round?
The fourth-round draw will take place after Manchester United’s third-round clash with West Ham on Wednesday night; kick-off 7.45pm. The draw will be live on Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Football.
- Fourth round: October 26 and 27
- Quarter-finals: December 21 and 22
- Semi-finals: January 4/5 and 11/12
- Final: February 27