By Mark Buckingham
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Birmingham slipped up at Ipswich, as Derby moved second, and the bottom three all won.
Birmingham City slipped up at Ipswich Town, as Derby County moved into second, while the bottom three all won in the Championship.
Queens Park Rangers also recorded an important three points, but Barnsley have dropped into the relegation zone after Hull City's surprise win at Sheffield Wednesday.
A last minute goal from Gavin Williams condemned Birmingham to a 1-0 defeat at Ipswich and their lead at the top is now down to three points.
Preston and Derby started the day level on points behind the leaders, but The Rams claimed second spot after a 2-1 success at Deepdale.
Steve Howard moved into double figures for the season as he put Derby ahead on 48 minutes and converted a penalty three minutes later.
David Nugent fired a consolation for Preston 11 minutes from time, but former manager Billy Davies was able to celebrate a happy return to Lancashire.
At the bottom end of the table, Southend United stunned in-form West Bromwich Albion with a 3-1 victory at Roots Hall.
Jamal Campbell-Ryce scored his first goals for Southend on 11 and 28 minutes to give the bottom club a fine start.
Lewis Hunt's first league goal for the club made it 3-0 before half-time, with John Hartson scoring on 63 minutes for West Brom.
Leeds United also recorded a vital victory after seeing off Coventry City 2-1 at Elland Road.
David Healy opened the scoring on 15 minutes, but Adam Virgo marked his first start for Coventry with the equaliser two minutes before the break.
Jonathon Douglas was Leeds' hero as he scored his first goal of the season on 53 minutes.
Hull are now out of the drop zone after Nick Barmby (9 & 65) scored in each half of a 2-1 win at Sheffield Wednesday. Deon Burton had brought the hosts level on 53 minutes.
Barnsley slipped into the bottom three as Simon Davey's first game as the club's permanent manager ended in a 2-0 defeat at Wolves.
Darren Potter had a 29th minute penalty saved for Wolves before Karl Henry (52) and Seyi Olofinjana (78) scored in the second period.
The in-demand Ray Jones scored a decisive goal on 36 minutes as QPR put a dent in Colchester's unlikely promotion push at Loftus Road.
Barry Hayles earned Plymouth Argyle a point at home to Southampton before being sent off for two yellow cards.
Grzegorz Rasiak put Saints ahead on five minutes before Hayles levelled on 66 minutes. The veteran striker was then sent off six minutes from time.
Sunderland scored twice in the last 11 minutes to post a 2-0 victory at Leicester City. Tobias Hysen's previous goal for the club had been against Leicester and he scored on 79 minutes, with David Connolly getting a second four minutes later.
Crystal Palace were another team to claim a much-needed three points after beating Norwich City 3-1 at Selhurst Park.
Mark Hudson and Shefki Kuqi scored in the space of three minutes before Robert Earnshaw replied with a penalty at the end of the first half. There was then still time for Stuart Green to scored a third goal for Palace before the break.
Cardiff City have now gone 10 games without a win after a 0-0 draw at Luton Town, while Burnley's game with Stoke City was called off due to a waterlogged pitch.
Click below for an individual match report:
Burnley P-P Stoke
Crystal Palace 3-1 Norwich
Ipswich 1-0 Birmingham
Leeds 2-1 Coventry
Leicester 0-2 Sunderland
Luton 0-0 Cardiff
Plymouth 1-1 Southampton
Preston 1-2 Derby
QPR 1-0 Colchester
Sheff Wed 1-2 Hull
Southend 3-1 West Brom
Wolves 2-0 Barnsley