Match ends, Colchester United 1, Preston North End 2.
Brian Wilson's late own goal saw high-flying Preston beat Colchester.
The U's captain was unable to clear Chris Humphrey's cross as the ball bounced off his head and into the net.
Tom Clarke headed in Paul Gallagher's cross to put the visitors ahead before Colchester's Jabo Ibehre saw his penalty saved by Declan Rudd after the keeper had hauled down Marcus Bean.
Ibehre made amends when he fired in a sublime leveller as the game went from end-to-end before Wilson's error.
Before the match, Preston's travelling fans unveiled a huge banner paying tribute to club legend Sir Tom Finney who died aged 91, on 14 February.
The win left fourth-placed Preston seven points off an automatic promotion spot, with Colchester just three points above the relegation zone.
However the Essex club have at least three games in hand on three of the sides in the bottom four.
Colchester United manager Joe Dunne told BBC Essex:
"The ball through [for Preston's winning goal] was three yards offside and the linesman's got to make a decision and it's a poor decision.
"It detracts from an excellent performance. I thought we matched them, created probably as many chances. I thought we were good going forward.
"It's not as if we're sitting back trying to draw, we're at home and we've gone for the win. Today we were just unlucky."
- 15BeanBooked at 76mins
- 6EastmondSubstituted forSearsat 70'minutes
- 21MasseySubstituted forMorrisonat 87'minutes
- 23RuddBooked at 32mins
- 5ClarkeBooked at 12mins
- 37KilkennySubstituted forBrownhillat 76'minutes
- 14GarnerSubstituted forBeavonat 84'minutes
- 17DaviesSubstituted forDaviesat 76'minutes
- David Phillips
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Colchester United 1, Preston North End 2.
Attempt saved. Stuart Beavon (Preston North End) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the centre of the goal.
Substitution, Colchester United. Clinton Morrison replaces Gavin Massey.
Substitution, Preston North End. Stuart Beavon replaces Joe Garner.
Foul by Joe Garner (Preston North End).
Ryan Dickson (Colchester United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Own Goal by Brian Wilson, Colchester United. Colchester United 1, Preston North End 2.
Attempt saved. Chris Humphrey (Preston North End) right footed shot from the right side of the box is saved in the centre of the goal.
Attempt saved. Josh Brownhill (Preston North End) left footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal.
Substitution, Preston North End. Josh Brownhill replaces Neil Kilkenny.
Substitution, Preston North End. Kevin Davies replaces Craig Davies.
Marcus Bean (Colchester United) is shown the yellow card.
Paul Gallagher (Preston North End) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Marcus Bean (Colchester United).
Attempt saved. Joe Garner (Preston North End) header from very close range is saved in the centre of the goal.
Corner, Colchester United. Conceded by Scott Laird.
Substitution, Colchester United. Freddie Sears replaces Craig Eastmond.
Corner, Preston North End. Conceded by Brian Wilson.
Attempt missed. Craig Davies (Preston North End) right footed shot from the left side of the box is close, but misses to the left.