Crewe moved into the top half of League One and above Preston after a convincing victory at Deepdale.
The Alex, boosted by news of went ahead when captain Luke Murphy converted Brad Inman's pass.
Newcastle loanee Inman then doubled the lead, his shot going in off a post.
Mathias Pogba netted his 10th of the season for 3-0, bundling in Byron Moore's cross, before Paul Huntington headed a late consolation for Preston.
VIEW FROM THE DRESSING ROOM
Preston manager Graham Westley told BBC Radio Lancashire:
"In the three games we've played since the two full-backs Scott Laird and Keith Keane went out injured, we haven't shown the ingredients that it takes to win.
"There's a lot of problem solving to do to make sure we recover the ground we've lost in this rocky period.
"We did get ourselves going in the last half hour of the game.
"We took the game to them and could have got ourselves back in the game sooner than we did, but it was too little, too late."