Debutant Steffen Iversen scored the only goal as Palace earned a hard-fought and vital win at Selhurst Park.
Following the dismissal of George Burley on Saturday, the bottom two sides in the league both came into the game with caretaker managers who have recently retired from playing.
Dougie Freedman took charge of Palace and handed Steffen Iversen his debut up front. Stuart O'Keefe, Andy Dorman, Anthony Gardner and Wilfried Zaha all came into the starting line-up after Saturday's 3-0 defeat to Millwall.
Preston came into the game on the back of home defeats against Middlesbrough and Derby and with a squad weaken by the sale of Jon Parkin to Cardiff and the recall of five first-team players by Premier League sides Stoke and Manchester United.
Four minutes into the game Neil Danns was the first player to take aim when Gardner's headed clearance fell kindly to him, the midfielder shot well from a narrow angle but straight at Lonergan. With Iversen looking bright up front, Palace were the better side but were struggling to create anything clear cut.
Another Danns strike from distance troubled Lonergan but flew just wide with chances few and far between.
Preston perhaps offered even less than Palace with their only half-chance coming from a free-kick that fell kindly to Chris Brown who could only fire wide.
Palace came to life after half-time when a neat passing move ended with Garvan finding Dorman who controlled well but couldn't keep his shot down. Preston looked brighter too though and began to press with Keith Treacy looking bright. The Lilywhites midfielder then went down under a challenge from Paddy McCarthy and was surprised to see the referee book him for simulation with the away side definitely now on top.
Owen Garvan's corner then saw Neil Danns go close again prompting Dougie to bring on Kieron Cadogan to replace Stuart O'Keefe and Zaha moving up-front to partner Iversen.
Almost immediately the change paid dividends when Garvan's free-kick found Cadogan, the youngster doing brilliantly to keep the ball in and his looping cross was headed in by Iversen ('57). The Norweigan striker rising superbly and beating Lonergan with a downward header.
Finally, after an hour the game sprung to life with Preston going close from a corner and seconds later a long-ball finding Iversen again, the debutant doing well to set up Dorman's drive which was well blocked. Dorman then collected a corner and drove a low cross-shot into the area with no Palace player quick enough to react.
The action continued with Iversen's rising drive just wide on a very promising debut. As Preston pressed again, Zaha broke away doing well to find Cadogan in space with the youngster's first touch deserting him when well placed.
Preston boss David Unsworth continued to shuffle his deck, making all three changes before the 70 minute mark. That almost created an equaliser when Barry Nicholson did well to get on the end of a ball from the left but his diving header went just wide. Preston continued to press, with Freedman reacting by bringing on Calvin Andrew to replace the tiring Iversen and David Wright for Zaha.
Cadogan continued to look good and a wonderful ball in from the winger just evaded Calvin Andrew with the big striker inches away from making it 2-0.
The last five minutes though were all Preston as Palace dropped deeper and deeper to protect their 1-0 lead. On a rare break, Andrew found Cadogan again well placed who hato hit the target, but shot just wide. Preston won a corner in the final minute of the game with even 'keeper Andy Lonergan joining the attack and Palace missing another chance at 2-0 when the move broke down with an open goal awaiting on the break.
Rarely has the tension been higher at Selhurst Park but somehow the Eagles held on for what could be three huge points.
Crystal Palace : Speroni, Clyne, Gardner, McCarthy, Bennett, Danns, Dorman, Garvan, O'Keefe, Iversen, Zaha
Subs: Wright, Andrew, Price, Scannell, Ambrose, Marrow, Cadogan.
Preston : Lonergan, Morgan, St. Ledger, Hayes, Brown, Nicholson, Treacy, Barton, Hume, Jones, McLaughlin.
Subs: Davidson, Coutts, Gray, Mayor, Parry, Arestidou, Douglas.
Att: 14,061 (331) Referee: Mr K Hill