Ten-man Preston struck in stoppage time to kill off Albion's faint hopes of Championship survival for a second season. Former Stoke City youngster Louis Moult tapped the ball home after the Brewers were caught pushing for a winner with Ben Pearson leading a counter-attack that found the Brewers short at the back and ultimately saying goodbye to the Sky Bet Championship.
Albion had looked on course to survive when Hope Akpan's 63rd minute thunderbolt cancelled out Callum Robinson's first half header and with other scores going their way until late on it seemed that the Brewers had done enough.
Bolton's late fighback at home to Nottingham Forest ultimately meant that the Brewers had to push on for the win and Moult's 93rd minute goal sealed the Brewers fate. It was heart breaking stuff for Albion and their near 2,000 followers who have endured some tense finishes in recent weeks as the relegation roller coaster has been at full speed.
Nigel Clough was forced into one change at Deepdale. Ben Turner aggravated his calf in training and with Damien McCrory still struggling with a shoulder injury it was Tom Flanagan who was asked to fill the left back berth.
After a bright start from the hosts it was Albion with the first real opportunity to threaten when Jacob Davenport was fouled 25 yards out with Marvin Sordell's free kick sent into the box at the second attempt, Liam Boyce getting up well at the back post but Preston keeper Declan Rudd tidying up before Lucas Akins could nip in.
Sordell was influential again on nine minutes breaking forward down the right and curling in a teasing cross that just eluded Akins in the middle.
Preston looked comfortable in possession and when left back Greg Cunningham found a yard of space to cross low and only a clearance from Flanagan prevented Sean Maguire from getting there first for what would surely have been an easy finish.
Sordell brought an excellent save out of Declan Rudd on 22 minutes after some nervy defending from Paul Huntington inside his own box. The Albion striker was quickly there as the Preston man slipped under pressure but Preston's keeper narrowed the angle well to deny the former Bolton striker.
Stephen Bywater came up with an outstanding save to deny Robinson as he broke through the midfield to burst into the box but there was nothing the Albion keeper could do when the resulting corner was headed back across the box and the former Villa youngster rose high inside the six yard box to nod home.
Preston really should have doubled their advantage on 33 minutes and it was Robinson again at the heart of things. Another pacy burst broke any semblance of an offside trap but this time he chose the unselfish option of squaring the ball for Maguire who had made the supporting run to his right. The Irishman looked to have a tap in but hit a rising effort against the crossbar allowing Albion to clear.
It looked to be game over for the Brewers moments later when Robinson swung in another dangerous cross and Bodin put the ball into the back of the net. Albion players were incensed and, as at Sunderland, it took the referee going over to speak to his assistant to see the goaL chalked off with Bodin booked for deliberately handling the ball into the net.
Bodin was handed a chance to make amends for his indiscretion when Naylor's challenge on the marauding Darnell Fisher handed Preston a free kick just outside the box. The Welshman set his sights but his effort went just over the bar.
Albion had one final chance of the half to make it level but after a strong run from Sordell it was Flanagan on the overlap who cut inside before blazing his right foot shot over. His frustration was evident knowing what a good chance had gone begging.
Half time: Preston North End 1-0 Burton Albion
Sordell got the Brewers off to a bright opening when play restarted, a curling shot from the edge of the box taking a deflection that won the Brewers a corner to put some pressure on the home defence. Rudd eventually cleared up when the ball was returned in from the right hand side.
Liam Boyce found himself in the book for a challenge on Ben Pearson as the striker tussled for possession midway inside the Preston half.
The card was out again from referee Andy Madley a minute later and this time it saw Preston reduced to ten men. Bodin tried to trick his way into the box and went to ground far too easily with the match official suitably unimpressed and producing the cards that saw Bodin take no further part in the game. Albion had forty minutes against ten men to turn things around.
Luke Murphy all of a sudden found space to drive into through the heart of the Preston midfield but his low shot was claimed with relative comfort by Rudd.
Suddenly Albion were seeing much more of the ball as they looked to make the extra man and Boyce went agonisingly close on the hour diverting a rasping effort from Flanagan just wide of the target with Rudd nowhere. There was still time to believe.
Albion's first roll of the dice from the bench came a minute later as Boyce got himself a partner in attack, Darren Bent sent on for Davenport who was clearly struggling with a knock but it was last week's goalscoring hero that did it again. Preston failed to clear a shot from Boyce and AKPAN turned smartly on the edge of the box to smash a shot into the top corner.
Only an outstanding save from Rudd on 66 minutes prevented Albion from hitting the front. Brayford this time was the provider with Sordell straining himself to flick a header towards the top corner. Albion were getting closer to a second and Tom Naylor's goal bound header hit Fisher on its way to goal and bounced over the top.
As much as Albion were threatening there was still danger at the other end when Preston got forward and substitute Paul Gallagher had Bywater at full stretch to keep Albion level and in with a chance of achieving their aim.
Lloyd Dyer was sent on for the final quarter of an hour of the game with Flanagan the man to make way as Albion looked to put destiny in their own hands with a winner.
Nerves were getting frayed everywhere as news filtered through of scorelines elsewhere and with Burton's hold of a point looking like it might be enough with ten minutes remaining.
Hearts were in Burton mouths when a cross found its way to the feet of substitute Tom Barkhuizen before Bywater somehow managed to get his hands on the ball to deny the former Stoke youngster.
Moult, Preston's third and final change, took a chance with a free kick as time ticked on but Bywater was equal to his effort which was not quite close enough to the top corner.
Preston came on strong again as news came through that Bolton had come from behind to lead their game and as Albion pushed forwards the home side struck a final blow seal Albion's fate. Ben Pearson strode in on goal as Albion pushed up before teeing up MOULT for a simple finish.
The highs and lows of football encapsulated in a few short minutes of action. Ecstasy to agony in a heartbeat. Albion gave it their all at Deepdale but now have to regroup over the summer for a return to League One.