Preston boss Alex Neil was relieved to see the Lilywhites end a four-match Sky Bet Championship losing streak with a 2-1 victory over Fulham.
Sean Maguire handed the Lilywhites the lead at Deepdale before Fulham’s Dennis Odoi was shown a straight red card for an aerial challenge on Patrick Bauer.
Joe Rafferty also saw a straight red before half-time for a high challenge on Joe Bryan, before David Nugent scored his first Preston goal since returning to the club after the break.
Fulham’s Aleksandar Mitrovic halved the deficit late on with his 16th strike of the campaign, but the Lilywhites climbed back into the play-off spots as the Cottagers remained in third.
But Neil insisted North End would have snatched a top-six place at this stage of the campaign if offered it before a ball was kicked in anger.
“It’s relief – I think that’s definitely the emotion,” he said.
“We needed it. I think there’s nothing worse when you go on a difficult run and the players are feeling it. Obviously, I’m feeling it because of the responsibility that I’ve got, and you want to win games for the fans, for the club, for the players, and I thought we were great.
“Second half we probably had three or four really golden opportunities to put the game to bed. We didn’t take them, which obviously leaves you panicking and worrying towards the end. It was just nice to get across the line.
“We’re sitting sixth in the league and I think if anybody said that at the start of the season at this stage, we’d have snapped their hands off. It’s just nice to get out of that rut and it’s been a difficult time over the last four games.”
Cottagers boss Scott Parker, whose side slipped to back-to-back losses, said: “It’s a disappointing performance from us really.
“At both ends of the pitch really, I didn’t think we was good enough. Certainly defensively, we gave away sloppy, cheap goals, and I just felt in the top end of the pitch as well we lacked a real cutting edge.
“We got to the edge of the box pretty well, we got to the final third pretty well but lacked quality in that sense. Any crossing opportunities on goal, we just lacked any bit of movement in and around the penalty area as well.
“You can’t give over goals that easy in any division, not just in this division, but at this present moment in time we need to score two or three goals to win a football match and ultimately it’s giving yourself an uphill task really.
“I’ve not seen it again (Odoi’s red card) to be honest with you.”