Preston missed the chance to move back into the Championship top half as Scott Hogan’s late goal snatched a point for Birmingham in a 1-1 draw at Deepdale.
Neither side created much in terms of clear-cut chances throughout the 90 minutes with Patrick Bauer’s instinctive first-half finish seemingly putting Preston on course for a crucial three points.
However, a late triple substitution turned the tide for Birmingham and in the dying minutes Republic of Ireland international Hogan popped up to seal a dramatic point for the away side.
The draw breaks North End boss Ryan Lowe’s 100 per cent record in league action since taking charge of the club back in December, with the Lilywhites remaining in 15th place in the table.
The struggling Blues stay 18th with a bit of a buffer to the relegation zone, despite picking up just one win in their last 10 games in all competitions.
Preston did look the brighter of the two sides in the early stages, with Andrew Hughes nodding just wide of the post from Ben Whiteman’s whipped corner and Emil Riis Jakobsen heading a great chance straight at Birmingham stopper Neil Etheridge.
However, that early attacking pressure did finally pay off for Lowe’s troops as they deservedly edged in front just past the half-hour mark.
Another Whiteman corner was only half-cleared to the edge of the box by the Birmingham back-line and Alan Browne’s driven effort was poked home from six yards by centre-back Bauer.
Lee Bowyer’s visitors looked to spark themselves into a response after the restart with Jordan James’ long-range strike bravely blocked away by Whiteman.
Preston still carried a threat in the final stages, with Etheridge called into action to deny Brad Potts and Ched Evans in quick succession.
Both bosses made changes to try and force the issue in the final 15 minutes, with Lowe bringing on Sean Maguire and Tom Barkhuizen and Bowyer rolling the dice by throwing on Ryan Woods, Jobe Bellingham and Hogan in a last-gasp move.
Bowyer’s gamble paid off in style after 86 minutes as his fresh faces conjured up an unexpected equaliser.
The 16-year-old Bellingham – younger brother of England international Jude and making his Championship debut – weaved past two Preston challenges in midfield to create an angle for Woods to deliver a cross into the box and Hogan got in behind the defence to nod home past an exposed Daniel Iversen.