Leeds United moved back up into second with a strong showing at Deepdale, beating Preston North End 2-0.
Patrick Bamford, who had come under criticism after failing to score in his last four starts, registered a brace after Preston had been reduced to ten men in the early stages of the second half.
Preston will take some solace from a solid showing before the dismissal, but it's now three defeats in a row and their hopes for the playoffs are dead.
Story of the match
Having lost 1-0 at Birmingham four days prior, this was a must-win for Marcelo Bielsa's men. They looked like they knew it, pressing with their typical intensity from the off, which disrupted Preston's rhythm, resulting in a number of shooting opportunities in the first half.
In the first half, they came closest through Mateusz Klich, who struck just wide of the post after the half-hour mark, but Preston keeper Declan Rudd was never seriously called into action before the break.
The hosts had kept their shape well in the opening half, but struggled to offer a great deal in front of goal, seeing rare counters wasted as Pontus Jansson, Liam Cooper and Kiko Casilla swept up ably.
The game's flashpoint came in the opening minutes of the second half, when Ben Pearson took down Bamford and was shown red for the last man challenge. The Leeds striker had been sent through on goal from a quick kick-out from the back, which gave the referee no choice.
Instantly Leeds upped the tempo and started to exploit the extra space, and it didn't take long for Bamford - who had been excellent, pressing from the front effectively - to score the opener with a long-range stunner into the far corner on the 61st minute.
Louis Moult and Ryan Ledson had been brought on in place of Callum Robinson and Sean Maguire as Alex Neil tried to help his team regain composure, but Bamford found himself unmarked to head in his second of the game, killing it for good in the 76th minute.
Leeds hadn't dropped any points after scoring first all season and didn't appear likely to let a two-goal lead slip, against ten men, in the final fifteen minutes.
That proved to the case as the remainder passed by with few incidents, although Bamford spurned the chance for a hat-trick in the dying moments, delaying his shot for too long when sent through one-on-one.
Leeds will have to come through more tests like this
It's often where the wheels come off for teams in the final stages of a campaign. After implementing a successful style of play, opposition sides study and plan accordingly, often following a template set before them.
Preston boss Neil paid Leeds plenty of respect in his pre-match press conference, calling them "the most impressive side in the division", having already been on the receiving end of an emphatic 3-0 mauling in the reverse fixture at Elland Road.
The Scot will have seen Sheffield United and Birmingham sit back, soak up the pressure and stifle Leeds to win 1-0 in recent weeks, and he set his gameplan accordingly. It's easy to see why so many matches at Deepdale have been tight, low-scoring encounters of late, and he's got the personnel to carry out the brief.
Leeds had put in a solid performance but lacked cutting edge before the hosts had been reduced to ten men. They're unlikely to be given that advantage again.
That's that for Preston
A brilliant run of form took Preston within touching distance of the playoffs. They went into the recent international break only kept out of the top six by goal difference and looked to have momentum behind them.
But three defeats in three games have seen them fall behind. They're likely to be eight points adrift once Aston Villa have played on Wednesday night.
Another season in the Championship beckons.