It was a distinctly unhappy 45th birthday for David Wagner as Huddersfield Town suffered back-to-back defeats for the first time since the final matches of last season.
And despite Wagner flagging up the danger Preston posed from set-pieces, free-kicks were at the heart of all three goals, scored by former Town player Tom Clarke, his fellow centre-back Alex Baptiste and Paul Gallagher.
Nahki Wells grabbed a late reply, but it couldn’t disguise a disappointing display for Town, who were beaten at home by Sheffield Wednesday on Sunday an now need to conjure an improvement when Derby County visit the John Smith’s Stadium on Saturday.
WATCH: Examiner's Doug Thomson & Blake Welton on Huddersfield Town's trip to PNE
Town arrived at Deepdale having fallen to fourth in the table and without a win at the Lancashire venue in their previous 14 visits.
Preston started the game in 19th place, just three points above the drop zone, but unbeaten in four league matches.
Skippered by former Town player Tom Clarke, they had won their previous three home games without conceding a goal.
However, there was no return for ex-Town loan striker Jermaine Beckford, who is on the way back from a hamstring injury.
Preston went with a 3-5-2 formation and, like Town, had their full-backs pushing high on a lush-looking surface.
Clarke clattered Kachunga in an early exchange, but Town skipper Mark Hudson’s sixth-minute foul on Callum Robinson was to prove more telling.
Town had been warned by their head coach of the danger Preston posed from set-pieces and when Gallagher delivered the free-kick into the danger area, Clarke rose highest to head past keeper Danny Ward.
Gallagher flighted in another set-piece two minutes later, but this time the ball was cleared.
LOOK: Preston North End 3 Huddersfield Town 1, 19.10.16: Match Action from Deepdale
Preston were out-pressing Town in the early stages and preventing the visitors from making any significant inroads - Tommy Smith did manage to get in a deep cross after 17 minutes, but keeper Chris Maxwell collected the ball confidently.
And the former Fleetwood Town man did exactly the same when Chris Lowe curled in a corner midway through the first half.
As play swung to the other end, Ward tipped over a Jordan Hugill header, then smothered a shot by Clarke.
Clarke seemed to be involved in all the key moments, and he did well to block a Payne shot as Town finally showed some signs of life.
Then Aaron Mooy, who had previously been quiet, drilled in an effort which took a deflection and looped over.
Kachunga’s mazy crossfield run had Preston in a panic, but his final ball over the defence was over-hit.
Then, on 42 minutes, Town were trailing by two goals for the first time this season - Preston worked a short free-kick to Gallagher, whose cross was met by a firm Baptiste header into the back of the net.
At the other end, Maxwell needed a second attempt to collect Payne’s low shot just before the break but there was no disguising this was a distinctly disappointing opening 45 minutes for lacklustre Town.
Payne put a 50th-minute free-kick just over as Town’s travelling fans did their best to spark their side into action but hopes of a fightback were well and truly dampened as Preston plundered a third goal after 53 minutes.
Hudson fouled Hugill, and was booked for his troubles, and Gallagher netted direct from the free-kick.
Bunn, Smith and Mooy all came close with shots as Town forced their hosts back for a spell and the visitors forced a string of corners, only to find Preston in resolute mood in front of their own goal.
Town made their final change after 66 minutes, when Palmer went on for Scannell.
Payne fired narrowly over after a one-two with Mooy, and Town finally counted with 10 minutes to go.
Christopher Schindler headed a Payne free-kick across the box and Wells nodded in for his third goal of the seaon.