Notts County were defeated 2-0 by Preston North End this afternoon at Deepdale.
The opening 45 saw Preston dictate much of the play, though it was Notts that created the better of the chances. Karl Hawley forced a strong save from goalkeeper Iain Turner with the best effort of the half but Julian Kelly and Hamza Bencherif also came close.
Notts looked sharp after the break and came close to taking the lead on multiple occasions. Off the bench, Alan Judge and Cristian Montano both threatened but were unable to break the deadlock.
In the closing stages, County conceded twice inside three minutes. On 83, Brian McLean found the top corner with a commanding header and then, on 86, Turner's long clearance somehow found its way into the net to double the lead.
Following a hectic start to the campaign, the Magpies had a free midweek to prepare for their npower League 1 clash with Phil Brown's side. Notts were determined to bounce back after being defeated by Sheffield Wednesday the previous Saturday.
With skipper Neal Bishop suspended, Krystian Pearce was handed the captain's armband. New recruit Gavin Mahon and Charlie Allen made their full debuts in a new-look midfield.
The hosts had started the season well, having taken seven points from their first four matches and were flying high following back-to-back triumphs. But, it was Notts that almost took the lead, when Jeff Hughes made space from the left, only his hit was deflected wide.
Bencherif headed over from the resulting corner and minutes later Alan Sheehan's right-footed shot skidded wide. For North End, Neil Mellor threatened on the counter but his low cross was cut out by Pearce's extended toe.
On 24 minutes, Pearce's aimed pass was met by a Jeff Hughes flick-on, which found Bencherif inside the box. Under pressure from his marker the midfielder controlled well but his shot was deflected over.
Notts' next opening came courtesy of Kelly's defence splitting through ball, after he had roamed forward in possession. Karl Hawley gathered but his grounded strike from a tight angle was kept out by Turner's outstretched leg.
As the match edged towards the interval, full-back Conor McLaughlin's cross picked out Barry Nicholson but the winger was unable to keep his header down. For the Magpies, Allen found Kelly in space on the right and the defender rifled over from 20 yards.
County started the second half brightly and could have gone in front, after Allen broke free of the rearguard with a well-anticipated header. However, his cross from the by-line was inches too high for Hawley at the near post.
Notts made a substitution early into the half, when Cristian Montano replaced Lee Hughes in attack. Later on, Allen, who had given a good account of himself in his first competitive outing, and Hawley, were swapped for Alan Judge and Ishmel Demontagnac.
Jamie Proctor tested Stuart Nelson for the first time in the match with a sternly struck effort from range. The forward looked set to find the bottom corner but Nelson reached out to tip behind with a fine save.
At the other end, Judge made an impact within minutes of his introduction, when Jeff Hughes teed him up from Mike Edwards' long throw. Judge targeted the top-left corner and wasn't far out, as the ball flew inches past the post.
Nelson's long punt forward then presented Montano with an even better opportunity. The on-loan attacker positioned himself to shoot as the ball bounced in front of him but his attempt skewed well wide.
Judge was involved again in the final third as the Magpies searched for an elusive opener. Toying with several defenders, he drifted inside, where he bent agonisingly wide.
With eight minutes left on the clock, it was the hosts that went in front. Paul Parry's in-swinging corner was met by centre-back McLean's thumping header, which left Nelson with no chance whatsoever.
Preston then secured the points three minutes later with a freak goal from their goalkeeper. Turner's lengthy kick bounced on the edge of the Notts box and looped over Nelson, into an empty net to make it 2-0.
Man of the Match: Julian Kelly