Middlesbrough maintained their push for automatic promotion from the Championship with a narrow win against play-off outsiders Preston North End.
Albert Adomah’s first-half strike was enough to stretch Boro’s winning league run to four games and edge them four points clear of third-placed Brighton.
David Nugent had chances to add to the lead, but Preston made life tough for the home side with dogged defence.
North End find themselves 12 points off the top six with five games to play.
Burnley’s 1-0 home win against Leeds in the early kick-off ensured Aitor Karanka’s outfit could not go top, with one point now separating the two sides.
Despite a formidable home record and a return to form since Spaniard Karanka missed the Charlton game to consider his future at the Riverside, Preston were able to frustrate the Teessiders in the first-half.
There was tangible anxiety around the Riverside before Adomah finally cracked the tension just after the half-hour mark with a shot from the right of the box.
Boro’s Nugent and Grant Leadbitter had good chances to add to the tally either side of the break but Simon Grayson’s side hung in the contest.
Visitors’ defender Marnick Vermijl might have added further concern had his fiercely struck effort not been directed at goalkeeper Dimi Konstantopoulos.
There was a scuffle between the two coaching teams late in the game, but Boro kept their lead intact to nudge closer to promotion and secure a 21st clean sheet of the season.