When these two sides come to look back at the end of this season, you feel as though both could see this as a turning point, for very different reasons.
For Preston, this may well be the game that after one win in their last seven leading up to this, kickstarts their push for a place in the Championship playoffs once more, with a resilient defensive performance that would undoubtedly lift any team in terms of their confidence going forward.
On the flip side, Blackburn will see this as a missed opportunity to get back on track after seeing a four game unbeaten run in the league that had taken them so close to the playoffs ended last time out, and the fact they failed to take it is yet another alarming reflection on their propensity to slip up whenever they get within touching distance of the playoffs.
Having enjoyed a 3-0 win when these two met at Deepdale earlier in the season, it was Rovers who started the game seemingly on the front foot.
But despite plenty of early pressure, they were unable to force a breakthrough, and would be punished just past the quarter-hour mark thanks to a familiar face.
Breaking down the Preston right, Alan Browne appeared to draw the attention of the entire Rovers defence, before producing an outstanding cross-field ball for Greg Cunningham, and the unmarked left back – who saw a loan spell at Ewood Park last season cut agonisingly short by injury – produced a stunning effort on the half volley to find the bottom corner of Thomas Kaminski’s goal.
Blackburn immediately went in search of an equaliser, but another worrying trend of theirs to have emerged recently continued, as they struggled to find the telling final ball, with the exception of one Bradley Dack pass into Adam Armstrong, which the striker could only drag wide of the mark.
But while Rovers’ defence has been able to help their attacker’s out in recent wins, that was not the case here, as Preston doubled their lead from a set piece.
Moments after Ched Evans had been denied a penalty from a corner, another of Preston’s January signings, Liam Lindsay, was found unmarked from a Ryan Ledson set-piece, with his header creeping in at the near post to put the visitor two to the good.
However, it didn’t take long for Blackburn to find a route into the game, with Sam Gallagher winning a penalty in the Preston area late in the first half – just as he did at Deepdale – and just as was the case in the reverse fixture, Adam Armstrong to blast the ball home on the stroke of half time.
Suddenly, Rovers were in the ascendancy, and they and Armstrong could have had a second before the break, with Daniel Iversen producing a stunning reflex save to deny Blackburn’s top scorer at point blanc range from a Barry Douglas cross.
Straight after the break however, Rovers would almost gift their hosts another, as Dack and Douglas combined to concede possession on the edge of the Blackburn area, with the ball breaking to Daniel Johnson, only for his effort to deflect wide.
Next it was the turn of Ryan Nyambe and Darragh Lenihan to highlight Rovers’ defensive susceptibilities on the night, the right-back and centre back leaving a ball to each other, allowing Tom Barkhuizen to break in behind, only to drag his shot just wide of the post.
Up the other end, Blackburn themselves were not without their threats, most notably when Bradley Dack headed a corner onto the bar while unmarked at the back post.
The introduction of first Tyrhys Dolan and then Harvey Elliott added an extra outlet for Rovers out wide, but while Preston’s defence held firm to limit the number of chances their hosts could muster, Tony Mowbray’s side continued to look suspect at the back.
Once again the captain Lenihan was involved, this time miscommunicating with his goalkeeper Kaminski to very nearly gift the visitors an opportunity, something the Belgian shotstopper goalkeeper then clearly did when he rushed off his line to make a clearance which fell straight to Ched Evans on the halfway line, but the striker was unable to get a shot away.
One man who could trouble get an effort away was Emil Riis, with the Dane turning Jarrad Branthwaite inside out, but the Preston substitute could then only fire straight at Kaminski inside the area.
It seemed a goal would come in the second half, but in the end, the assistant referees would have other ideas, as both Dack – who tapped in at close range from Armstrong’s flick on – and Evans – who inadvertently deflected Ledson’s long-range effort into the bottom corner – were flagged offside.
In the end though, neither side were able to find the breakthrough before full time, with Preston’s makeshift three-man defence off Jordan Storey, January signing Liam Lindsay and left-back Andrew Hughes holding firm to earn North End three points that put them back in play-off contention, as Rovers, despite Mowbray throwing on just about every attacking option available to him, once again looked increasingly out of ideas in their search for a breakthrough, and maybe now, their search for a top-six spot.