BURTON Albion were relegated after a see-saw battle left the Brewers in the bottom three. A Hope Akpan goal had given the Brewers a lifeline but with time running out Bolton came from 2-1 down to beat Nottingham Forest 3-1 meaning Albion had to chase another goal.
Albion manager Nigel Clough said: "We were minutes away from keeping the dream going. To lose in those circumstances when you think you are safe is exttremely cruel. But it's not over the course of today but over 46 games and 41 points wasn't good enough.
"The fans were brilliant today again. We are devastated for ourselves but the fans as well who came in such numbers and we couldn't send them back down the M6 ecstatic today, which they would have been and were with a few minutes to go.
"It was disappointing to concede that second goal. There was still five minutes to go and there was no need to do the things we were doing - just play properly and that's where your goals come from.
"We set up to get a goal. We had Boyce and Bent up front and if anybody is going to get a goal they are. Defenders defend, attackers attack - do your job.
"Preston going down to 10 men helped us and we gained the upper hand but we had had situations in the first half."
Clough had warned his players about the danger Preston posed from set plays but Albion were still caught out as Preston took the lead.
He said: "Two free headers in our penalty area and you don't get away with that."
But Albion clawed their way back into the game with a stunning Hope Akpan equaliser.
"It was a good goal it's just not counted for anything in the end. I wish we had had him in this form earlier in the season."
Brewers fans have enjoyed two seasons of punching well above the club's weight in the Championship and have been left with some great memories from the last two seasons.
"We have had two right goes at it and generally speaking we don't feel out of place.
"We wanted to keep going to the lovely stadiums and the big clubs in the Championship and we will have a go and see if we can get back here one day."