A stunning twist, turn and shot from Darel Russell in the last minute of normal time finally broke Preston North End's resistance at Carrow Road this afternoon as Norwich dug out a potentiallty priceless 1-0 win.
Dion Dublin's flick on for once fell kindly for the Canary midfielder, but thereafter it was all his own work as he turned away from the last defender and smashed a low, 20-yard drive towards the bottom corner which keeper Andy Lonergan could only help in.
City deserved the spoils after Gary Doherty dropped an 85th minute header onto the top of the bar and Lonergan had somehow lifted Jamie Cureton's 74th minute effort over the bar one-handed.
Even then it needed an excellent spread save from City's David Marshall to deny Brett Ormerod as Preston threatened to stage a late smash and grab raid. And while the rest of the contest was neither that exciting or that action-packed, this was an afternoon where the result was everything. It's a sign of a good team that it can play badly and win. Which was Norwich all over this afternoon.
With just two of this week's loan signings visible this weekend – Matthew Bates and 18-year-old James Henry taking their place on the bench – and Darren Huckerby notable only in his complete absence, so one other name leaped off the team-sheet.
Jarnail Singh. He, of course, was the official in charge of the shambles that was Charlton Athletic (a) this season – a game that ended on a fitting low note with Dublin's red card for an alleged 'head-butt' aimed in the vague direction of the much-loved Danny Mills.
Video replays of the incident demonstrated that there was no contact between Dublin and Mills and if there was intent, the veteran Canary striker kept it very well hidden.
The result, of course, was a three-match ban – a suspension that stood despite a subsequent appeal. In the grander scheme of things, Dublin's absence – on the basis of the influence and impact that his presence brings – over the following weeks and games, did much to undermine Peter Grant's already tottering regime.
Whether Dublin is one with a long memory would be for the next 90 minutes to demonstrate as Roeder kept faith with the same starting line-up that had prised such a big away win out of Southampton in mid-week.
With a clutch of eager teenagers anxious to make their own mark at Carrow Road, the hope clearly was that it would inspire the St Mary's 11 to new heights. The game's opening exchanges, however, proved otherwise with a quiet start that saw Preston create the better moments – even if neither keeper was unduly troubled as new North End chief Alan Irvine looked to keep his new charges moving north this spring.
Ched Evans was the first to show with a 16-yard effort from the inside-right channel that flew into the side-netting in the 12th minute. It signalled the start of a better spell as Jon Otsemobor threaded Lee Croft in and his low cross just eluded Dublin. Something was starting to stir.
Preston's best-laid plans weren't helped by an early injury to centre-half Callum Davidson, but still the Canaries needed to up their tempo if the game was to spark into real life. Passing to a yellow shirt might help – an affliction they shared with Preston as an off-colour game continued on its sickly way.
No surprise to find Roeder abandoning his directors' box perch on the half-hour mark to direct traffic.
Preston's 'best' moment came in the 38th minute when a half-cued punch by David Marshall fell to Paul McKenna on the edge of the Canary box. His slashed shot curved off and away towards the corner flag. As an effort, it summed up the half quite nicely. Flat and horribly uninspired.
The 43rd minue at least offered one half chance – Croft again finding space down the right, his cross fell kindly for Evans but from some 15 yards out his header lacked either the pace or the direction to trouble the Preston keeper.
As City emerged back into the growing cold after the interval, you can only imagine that Roeder's half-time words of wisdom included a loud reminder that there were now another four, fresh bodies just itching for a chance to get a game.
Croft apart, and there weren't too many others that would have persuaded Roeder that their shirt was in safe hands. Dublin's touch was uncharacteristically heavy and laboured. Evans at least forced the first corner of the second period which prompted the odd moment of alarm; Dublin finally digging a shot just wide. City at least were heading in the right direction as Russell drilled low and true from a Dublin back heel.
A rare Otsemobor slip forced Marshall to bravely collect at Neil Mellor's feet, but it was still all very hard work. Cue the first change as Bates made his first appearance at right-back. His first touch promised much – deep cross tight on the byline following a fine, over-lapping run.
It was an even better ball that Bates delivered in behind the Preston back four that gave Norwich their best chance just after the hour-mark. Fotheringham collected and crossed along the edge of the six-yard box where Ryan Bertrand, on his wrong foot, lifted the ball badly over.
They almost had caused to regret that as McKenna smashed goalward; Jason Shackell taking the full force of the drive firmly on his forehead. It was fast slipping into the territory of first mistake would win it – with big errors liable at either end.
That Norwich didn't sneak a lead in the 74th minute owed everything to a wonderful instinctive save from Lonergan. Cureton had only been on the pitch two minutes before he met Croft's latest cross with a well-weighted first touch that gave him the space to then twist and drive up and goalward. Only a flailing hand from the Preston keeper denied Cureton a late winner.
Norwich City (4-4-2): Marshall; Otsemobor (Bates, 56 mins), Camara, Doherty, Shackell; Croft (Henry, 82 mins), Fotheringham, Russell, Bertrand; Dublin, Evans (Cureton, 73 mins). Subs (not used): Gilks, Pattison.
Preston North End (4-4-2): Lonergan; Jones, Davidson (Hill, 23 mins), St Ledger, Chilvers; Neal (Chaplow, 82 mins), McKenna, Carter, Whaley; Mellor (Ormerod, 70 mins), Hawley. Subs (not used): Neal, Trotman.
Man of the Match: Jason Shackell.