Skipper Dean Lewington admitted he was awestruck by Dons goalkeeper David Martin’s late save at Rochdale.
With time running out and the match finely poised at 3-2 at Spotland, Ian Henderson’s cross was deflected goalwards by Jordan Spence. With Martin initially wrong-footed, he races back onto his line to miraculously palm the ball to safety, ensuring Dons earned all three points to keep their automatic promotion dream alive.
Lewington admitted he was caught ball-watching as the strike came in, but said he knew Martin was capable of such a stop.
“When I saw the deflection, I saw Dave’s feet stay still,” he said. “I thought ‘come on Dave!’ but he managed to get going again and save it.
“I was just watching it, rather than going towards the ball, and thought ‘ah well done!’ but then realised it was still in play!
“Sometimes you need your big players to do something special, and that was the moment.”
Both centre halves Antony Kay and Kyle McFadzean also threw their bodies on the line as Rochdale threw everything forward in a bid to keep their play-off hopes going, but it wasn’t to be for the home side.
Like Martin, Kay was charged with a superb clearing header off the line, which Lewington too felt could easily have dropped in.
Lewington said: “Antony Kay’s header from under the bar was something else - I thought it was a goal. But he’s his big head on the ball and get it over. It was a fantastic clearance. It’s good to know you’ve got players inside you willing to get hurt for the cause.
“As a unit of four, we’ve played really well. The boys in the middle are old fashioned defenders, which we’ve lacked in the past - people putting their bodies on the line.
“We started well, and went 2-0 and felt in control. We knew they needed three points to stay in the play-off hunt, it was going to be different in the second half. They played a lot of long balls. It was difficult to defend against and once they got the goal back, the nerves were jangling a bit.”
It all means Dons go into the final game of the season against Yeovil just a point behind Preston in the final automatic promotion spot.
Simon Grayson’s side are 18 games unbeaten in League 1 and take on Colchester on Sunday, who are scrapping for survival.
For Lewington, Preston’s form means Dons have been able to concentrate solely on winning games. And while Dons themselves have won eight out of their last nine, they’re able to do it with a smile on their faces.
He said: “We go into games expecting Preston to win, so we have to as well. There’s just a good feeling around us.
“The players are all around a good age. You look at the likes of Dele (Alli) and Lewis (Baker), they have that enthusiasm at that age and love going out to play football. It helps the older players who don’t always feel as sprightly in the mornings, having those little rats running around your ankles!
“It’s a real good mix, there are no cliques in the changing rooms. It’s not always a problem, but it’s nice when you’ve got a good team, and winning helps that feeling.
“Sunday will be strange. We’ve just got to concentrate on ourselves. We’ve got to win, focus on Yeovil and get three points.
“This year, we had a bad patch in March but since then, it has been eight wins out of nine. It has given us some real buoyancy.
“It might be one more, it might be two or three more wins. We’re prepared for every eventuality.”