Preston claimed a controversial 2-1 win at the City Ground as Nottingham Forest’s disappointing season ended on a losing note.
The Reds had expected to challenge for promotion but instead flirted with relegation for much of the campaign.
This defeat summed up their familiar problems, as they missed a host of chances either side of James Garner giving them the lead in spectacular fashion with a long-range strike.
Tom Bayliss forced the ball home from close range in the 53rd minute, before Liam Lindsay headed home a winner for Preston, which came almost immediately after referee Darren Bond either failed to see or overruled an offside flag.
Ryan Yates drove a shot wide of the target from the edge of the box as Forest looked to take an early lead.
Preston came even closer following a mistake from Brice Samba. The keeper came for a cross and Ched Evans ghosted in ahead of him, but sent a looping header on to the roof of the net.
Some intricate build-up play ended with Filip Krovinovic curling a shot narrowly over – and it was Forest who got into their stride.
Krovinovic fed a simple pass to Garner, who was 25 yards out, but the on-loan Manchester United man lashed a bending shot inside the far post to give the home side the lead in spectacular fashion in the 17th minute.
Anthony Knockaert might have had a second for Forest had he shown better control inside the box, while Yates saw another effort spin narrowly wide.
Daniel Iversen made a simple save to deny Lewis Grabban, while Knockaert was only a few feet wide of the target with a crisp 20-yard strike.
Preston had the odd moment of menace on the break, but it was Forest who looked the more likely to add to their tally.
Lyle Taylor had the ball in the back of the net, but referee Bond felt Joe Worrall had been guilty of a foul as he headed the ball down for the striker.
Forest had a great chance to add another goal just after the break when they launched a four-on-one break but Krovinovic fired a shot wide when he might have picked out Grabban for an easy finish.
It proved to be a pivotal moment, as Preston quickly levelled. Scott Sinclair laid on a simple close-range finish for Bayliss with a sublime ball from the left side.
Yates curled another effort narrowly wide from the edge of the box as Forest looked to regain the lead. Taylor tried a similar effort that was also wide.
There was controversy surrounding Preston’s second goal, as Bond failed to act on an offside flag from his assistant. Play continued and, with their next attack, Evans flicked the ball into the path of Lindsay to head home in the 67th minute.
Forest, who had not played with the same level of urgency in the second half, could not find a leveller.