No surprises as to who was the most disappointed man at Carrow Road come five o'clock Saturday – Lilywhites chief Alan Irvine.
And while Darel Russell's 89th minute winner was never going to put a smile on the face of the new Deepdale boss, he had one other big reason to offer a wry smile to the Press afterwards – the absence of ex-Canary striker Chris Brown.
Nine times out of ten and returning players have an uncanny habit of biting their former employers on the butt. And having grabbed just one goal in his 12 months in Norfolk, there was a widespread expectation among the City faithful that Irvine's ?400,000 transfer window capture would have broken his Carrow Road duck this weekend – for the opposition.
As fortune would have it, a mid-week red card in Preston's 2-1 home win over West Bromwich Albion ensured that Brown was notable on by his absence on Saturday – something that gave Irvine only further cause for regret.
“A big miss,” was the Preston chief's simple verdict. The one-time Sunderland prospect has already bagged one goal for his new employers and two, man-of-the-match awards.
“He's been playing very well for us, so it was a big miss for us,” he added, well aware of the way that ex-players can turn up in exactly the right place at the right time.
“He came down anyway with us which was nice. Straight away he said that he wanted to travel with us, but he was bitterly disappointed not to get the chance to come and play.”
It wasn't the greatest of contests for the neutral. In the end, the final result was everything as Russell latched onto Dublin's last-gasp flick on and slashed the ball into the bottom corner – and all off his wrong foot, to boot.
“We didn't play as well as I'd like us to have played, but we defended well,” said the Lilywhites chief, up to this weekend fast hauling the Lancashire side out of the danger zone following his appointment in the wake of Paul Simpson's dismissal. Russell's last gasp strike was the last thing he needed.
“I thought it was very harsh – I thought it was going to be a draw all day,” said Irvine, who found a friend in City boss Glenn Roeder.
“To be fair the first thing that Glenn Roeder said to me afterwards was that you didn't deserve that. I appreciated that – though it's probably an easy thing to say, mind you.”
Certainly Lilywhites keeper Andy Lonergan can count himself unlucky after pulling off a 'worldy' to deny Canary substitute Jamie Cureton. Amid all the talk of where, exactly, Roeder is going to find room for all his loans, there's another decision to be made ahead of this weekend's trip to Cardiff – Cureton versus Ched Evans for the second striker's gig alongside Dion Dublin.
Irvine, for one, felt that Cureton made a difference.
“Cureton was a threat when he came on – he made good runs which we knew he would do. And, yes, there was one very good save – the other one I would have expected him to make.”
The manner of the defeat was, however, a bitter pill to swallow. They had, in fairness, come so close to nicking a point for their troubles and but for David Marshall's spreading save towards the death could have smashed and grabbed all three as Brett Ormerod wriggled free.
“This is probably as hard to take as any,” said the Preston chief. “We've been steadily getting better, we've been on a nice little run ourselves – and I know that Norwich have been on a fantastic run but we've won four out of the last five. And that one was looking as if it was probably heading for a draw, so it was a very bitter pill to swallow at the end.”
Ormerod's chance could have made the world of difference – had that gone in and the Canaries would still have been looking firmly over their shoulders this morning as opposed to starting, just, to dream of a late run into the play-offs now those seven points distant.
“It just shows the margins are so fine,” said Irvine. “Nearly all the games that we've had are won or lost by one goal – and this is another one. We'll have a look at that chance again for Brett and see whether he should have done something a bit better.
“But, as I say, the margins are very fine. And that was the difference between us winning 1-0 and us losing 1-0.”