PRESTON: Lonergan, Jones, Mawene (Chilvers 46), Collins, Davidson (Nolan 74), Sedgwick (Parkin 80), Chaplow, Tonge,Parry, Brown, Mellor. Subs Not Used: Henderson, Shumulikoski, Carter, Elliott.
TOON: Harper, Simpson (Kadar 65), Steven Taylor, Coloccini, Jose Enrique, Guthrie (Lovenkrands 90), Smith,Nolan, Gutierrez, Harewood, Carroll (Ranger 62). Subs Not Used: Krul, Geremi, Pancrate, Donaldson.
The official line was that Taylor was suffering an illness, but the player said afterwards he had a knee problem.
So Chris Hughton switched from one striker to two, drafting in Harewood, who showed the usual "you get on with it lads ... while I read the paper".
I cannot remember the last Newcastle player to coast through a match and do so little. At least Wayne Fereday used to PRETEND he was interested ... when obviously he wasn't ... but Harewood doesn't even try and hide it!
The travelling Toon fans were in disbelief when Andy Carroll was substituted, and Harewood was still allowed to continue ... although it has to be said Carroll was knocking Preston players around like ten-pins, and he does wave his elbows around too often for comfort.
Perhaps Hughton could see a red card being flashed, and he'd already had a word with Alan Smith, who was another on the brink of dismissal.
But it was Kevin Nolan who claimed a predatory 74th-minute winner to fire the Toon back to the top of the Coca-Cola Championship.
The former Bolton skipper moved the Magpies two points clear of West Brom with a clinical low left-footed drive - his ninth goal of the season - to send the huge army of Magpies supporters into raptures.
Nolan endured a nightmare campaign last season after joining Newcastle in January and becoming part of the side that slid out of the Barclays Premier League in such dismal fashion.
Yet he is doing his best to ensure the Tyneside outfit make an immediate return to the promised land by recapturing the goalscoring form and drive which once saw him tipped to win full England honours.
Alan Smith, another player who looks back to his best, played a pivotal role alongside Nolan in the middle of the park. The Magpies skipper showed his stomach for the fight remains firmly intact with a fine display.
Preston gave Newcastle several worrying moments but lacked the kind of killer finish Nolan provided.
The 27-year-old almost scored in the 14th minute when he showed neat footwork to evade the attention of a couple of Preston players and strike a fierce shot from 25 yards which warmed Andy Lonergan's hands.
Moments later, Preston midfielder Richard Chaplow engineered the space to drive a neat low shot just wide of Steve Harper's goal from distance.
Michael Tonge, handed a debut in midfield for Preston after joining on loan from Stoke, then slashed a left-foot shot narrowly over the crossbar.
For all Newcastle's undoubted class and experience, Preston continued to worry the visiting defence, and in the 17th minute Neil Mellor was afforded the time to rifle a low shot into Harper's midriff at his near post.
The hosts looked particularly dangerous down the flanks and Chris Sedgwick's hanging cross was headed on to the top of the net by fellow winger Paul Parry.
Smith then rifled the ball just wide in the 37th minute but five minutes later Preston threatened again when Danny Guthrie surrendered possession 35 yards from goal.
Chaplow, having spotted Harper off his line, chipped the ball goalwards but his effort sailed just over the crossbar.
Preston were dealt a bitter blow on the stroke of half-time when Youl Mawene was forced off after sustaining medial ligament damage to his right knee.
His replacement was Liam Chilvers but he was almost caught cold within minutes of the restart when Andy Carroll rifled a low shot just wide.
With 16 minutes remaining, the points went to Newcastle as Guthrie crossed from the right flank and Marlon Harewood showed strength to find Nolan lurking on the left corner of the penalty box.
He showed delightful skill to strike a low, left-footed shot into the bottom corner and send Newcastle back to the Championship's summit.