It was Preston who came out of the traps quickly and had a flurry of chances early on. The first of which came from midfielder Paul Gallagher who saw his powerful strike deflected just over the bar and out for a corner in the first minute.
Next it was the turn of Tom Barkhuizen and after latching onto the ball he burst clear on goal only for goalkeeper Smith to stop his effort with his legs at close range.
A minute later and Jordan Hugill was at it, his curler from the edge of the box flew just over the bar, the home side looking ominous early on.
Ben Osborn saw his header loop over the bar shortly after before some good Forest pressure lead to a timely reward for new manager Mark Warburton.
In the 22nd minute Britt Assombolonga latched onto Zach Clough’s through ball and the Congolese man duly prodded past Preston stopper Maxwell for 1-0.
No more than they deserved after dealing with the early pressure from Simon Grayson’s men.
Osborn involved again, his attempt was thwarted after Assombolonga’s shot was blocked but his tame effort went straight at Maxwell.
Right on half time Ben Brereton took the ball down from the halfway line following Smith’s clearance and proceeded to stride past the entire North End defence only for Maxwell to stick a leg out and prevent him.
Just seven minutes after the restart Preston drew level however. Substitute Callum Robinson fed Aiden McGeady who’s cool strike from the edge of the D beat Smith in the Forest goal.
Forest’s ever present danger man Osborn let fly with a ferocious effort on 60 minutes, with Maxwell glad to see it go wide.
Robinson then went probing and after he ran at the Forest defence his shot wasn’t good enough to trouble Smith just inside the box.
With PNE now well on top Gallagher’s ball in was met by Huntington in the air but again Smith was equal to it.
In what was a quiet and scrappy second half Jamie Ward had a chance to win it at the death, but his 25 yard free kick flew aimlessly over.
A good point for Forest at a tough place in Deepdale but Preston will be disappointed not to close the gap on the play-offs.
Preston North End:
Maxwell, Clarke, Boyle (Baptiste 45), Huntington, Cunningham, Horgan (Robinson 45), Gallagher (Browne (84), Pearson, McGeady, Barkhuizen, Hugill
Subs: Lindegaard, Browne, Beckford, Spurr, May, Baptiste, Robinson
Smith, Lichaj, Worrall, Fox, Pinillos, Vaughan, Cohen, Brereton (Ward, 62), Clough (Cash 72), Osborn, Assombalonga (Vellios 72)
Subs: Mancienne, Tshibola, Carayol, Ward, Evtimov, Vellios, Cash
Referee: Darren Bond