Clarke Carlisle and Barry Nicholson scored headers that condemned Chesterfield to a second league defeat and three winless games in their return to League One.
Spireites, always second best, fell behind to yet another set play, their third such concession from the first three goals conceded in the league to date. Nicholson delivered a left wing corner for PFA Chairman and Question Time panellist Carlisle to head home from close in.
Prior to that Nicholson had shot wide and Jack Lester had seen a header saved in an even opening. However after the goal North End had the better of the pre-break play. Tommy Lee saved from ex-Owl Neil Mellor, Graham Alexander also forced the keeper to work but the best save was at the feet of Mellor.
Drew Talbot shot just wide and Dean Morgan saw a shot blocked by Danny Devine but the hosts’ first half attacks lacked the intensity of those of Phil Brown’s side, who had Iain Hume tucked just behind the front two.
The intensity of the game increased after the break with a fantastic atmosphere around the ground but Spireites continued to struggle to break through the Lillywhite’s back line.
Hume drilled in an angled effort that flew very close as Preston’s offensive play remained slick. Jamie Proctor fired high on the hour as play spread out. Mark Allott blazed a 25 yarder within a whisker before Nicholson headed a teasing, bouncing Brian McLean cross beyond Lee.
John Sheridan reacted to the concession with three quick substitutions, completely reshaping his underperforming attack in a bid to salvage something from a game they’d always been chasing.
Dean Holden hit just wide of the mark and a Danny Whitaker free kick teased as Chesterfield continued to plug away but the closest calls after the scoring fell North End’s way with Mellor and Hume almost adding to the score.
But after the success of last season, it’s become clear that the squad, as it stands, is still lightweight.
It needs new faces before any serious attempt mixing it in the upper echelons of the table can be realistically expected.
Chesterfield: Lee 6; Holden 7, Downes 6, Mattis 6, Smith 5; Talbot 8, Niven 7 (Lowry 74), Allott 7, Whitaker 7; Morgan 5 (Bowery 71), Lester 6 (Boden 74). Subs (not used): Fleming, Boden, Randall.
Booked: Mattis foul 81
Preston: Turner 6; McLean 7, Carlisle 7, Devine 7, Smith 6 (Parry 72); Alexander 7, Coutts 7, Nicholson 8, Hume 7 (Clucas 90); Mellor 7, Proctor 7 (Mayor 81). Subs (not used): Arestidou, Tsoumou.
Goals: Carlisle 17, Nicholson 70
Booked: McLean 83
Ref: Anthony Bates (Staffs)