Burnley returned to the top of the Championship with a 1-0 win over Lancashire rivals Preston North End at Deepdale.
Joey Barton’s deflected sixth-minute free-kick was enough to put Sean Dyche’s team a point above Middlesbrough and three clear of third-place Brighton and Hove Albion in their bid for an instant return to the Premier League.
Andre Gray had an attempt blocked by Greg Cunningham after the half-hour and Burnley’s top scorer, along with George Boyd, almost gave a travelling contingent in excess of 5,000 more to shout about as they hit post and bar respectively in the 54th minute.
Jermaine Beckford wasted Preston’s best chance when he headed over from inside the six-yard box and the mid-table hosts did not test Tom Heaton until the 70th minute – substitute Daniel Johnson smashing a shot too close to the Burnley goalkeeper before Joe Garner sliced the rebound over.
Middlesbrough will seek to regain top spot heading into the final two rounds when they face Ipswich Town on Saturday, when Brighton travel to relegated Charlton Athletic.
Boro and Brighton play each other on the final day, meaning Burnley – who have not lost in the league since going down 3-0 at Hull City on Boxing Day – will be guaranteed promotion with wins in their remaining matches against QPR and Charlton.
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