A clinical first-half strike from Marvin Johnson proved enough as 10-man Sheffield Wednesday edged to a 1-0 victory at Preston.

The Owls, who remain rooted in the Championship drop zone, were forced to defend for their lives in the second half.

They were reduced to 10 men when George Byers saw red late on but Wednesday held on to seal a potentially precious fourth victory in seven matches.

In driving rain, both sides began purposefully. Preston skipper Alan Browne went close with a thumping drive, while Wednesday replied with Will Vaulks heading inches over as he darted in to meet Djeidi Gassama’s cross.

It was Preston who were doing most of the early running, however, and they went mighty close again midway through the first half.

Browne worked the ball tidily out to Duane Holmes, and he turned inside before drilling an angled effort just over the crossbar.

The Owls saw Vaulks’ free-kick comfortably saved by Freddie Woodman, before they went on to take the lead shortly before the half-hour mark.

Johnson coolly slotted past Woodman after racing on to Bailey Cadamarteri’s precise through-ball.

Ryan Lowe’s Preston had seen much more of the ball in the first period, but it was Wednesday who went into the break with their lead comfortably intact.

Preston’s match-winner against Leeds on Tuesday, Liam Millar, made an explosive start to the second period.

The Canada winger was full of tricks before firing an angled strike at Owls keeper Cameron Dawson.

Minutes later Millar took advantage of a perfectly-executed one-two with Ali McCann before curling a fine strike against the crossbar.

It appeared boss Lowe had offered stern words to his Preston charges at the interval as they were well on top during the run-up to the hour mark.

On one of Wednesday’s rare breaks they went close when Gassama just could not stretch enough to meet a terrific cross from Johnson.

North End kept up their forward momentum and were probing for a much-needed opening.

However, they were nearly caught out again at the back when Owls’ substitute Byers almost lashed home a potential victory-clinching second with 20 minutes left.

A sense of desperation was beginning to creep in among the Preston faithful in the closing stages, and that was not helped by Browne skying a disappointing effort as he met Brad Potts’ smart cross.

Substitute Mads Frokjaer-Jensen whistled a low strike inches off target as the hosts kept pressing, before the Danish midfielder was hacked down by Byers late on, earning the Wednesday man a straight red card.

However, Danny Rohl’s side hung on, to the delight of their delirious gathering of travelling fans who roared ‘we are staying up’ at the final whistle.