Lee Ashcroft was Preston’s hat-trick hero this afternoon as North End came from behind to beat Fulham and end a run of four Deepdale defeats in a row.

North End had been waiting nearly two months for a home win and that barren run looked set to continue when Ray Wilkins’ big spenders took the lead in the sixth minute. Mark Blake’s pinpoint ball down the right flank found Paul Peschisolido and Fulham’s £1m man left Dean Barrick for dead before his cross was cut out by the stretching Michael Jackson, only for the in-form Rob Scott to fire home his fourth goal in five games.

But Gary Peters’ side needed only five minutes to draw level through a flowing move. Barrick won the ball back and his determined allowed Michael Appleton to play a one-two with Mark Rankine before finding Ashcroft, who spun superbly and bent a brilliant finish into the top corner from 20 yards out leaving Maik Taylor utterly helpless. The Fulham goalkeeper did well to deny Appleton but home-town hero Ashcroft’s special strike had totally changed the complexion of the contest.

The hosts now had their tails up and went close to going in front both before and after half time with Tony Lormor heading just wide and Gary Parkinson shooting narrowly off target. Ashcroft dinked a cool penalty over Taylor to give North End the advantage twenty minutes from time, although Fulham were furious with referee Eddie Lomas who had adjudged the striker had been brought down by Neil Smith seconds after waving a loud home appeal for a spot-kick away.

Wilkins sent on Paul Moody in search of a Fulham equaliser but the hosts were rampant now. Ashcroft, who admitted afterwards that he kept quiet about a tight hamstring until after he had completed his hat trick seven minutes from time, found the far corner with a lovely right-footed finish after being released in space by a lovely flick from Rankine. Sean Gregan almost made it four in stoppage time with a piledriver from distance that flew just over the Fulham bar.

Afterwards, a delighted Peters – who hugged Ashcroft with joy after the striker was substituted – described North End’s return to winning ways at home as ‘a victory for passion over money’.

PRESTON NORTH END (4-4-2): Moilanen; Jackson, Kidd, Barrick, Parkinson; Gregan, Appleton, Rankine, Cartwright; Ashcroft (Holt 84), Lormor. Subs (not used): O’Hanlon, Murdoch.

GOALS: Ashcroft (11, pen 70, 83).

FULHAM (4-4-2): Taylor; Watson (Moody 74), Herrera, Blake, Cullip; Bracewell, Carpenter, Hayward, Smith; Peschisoldio, Scott. Subs (not used): Walton, Thomas.

GOAL: Scott (6).

REFEREE: Eddie Lomas (Greater Manchester).