Preston moved to the top of the Championship table as substitute and captain Paul Gallagher scored from the spot to give them a 1-0 win at Charlton.

Preston had refused bottom-of-the-table Stoke permission to talk to their manager Alex Neil on the eve of the match and with the two clubs occupying opposite ends of the table he can have no reason to complain.

Charlton fought hard to the end of a bad-tempered match but remain in mid-table.

Preston’s Declan Rudd was the first goalkeeper called into serious action, parrying an angled shot from Charlton’s Ben Purrington after 16 minutes, and he was relieved when Conor Gallagher just failed to get a touch on a cross from the same player seconds later.

It took Preston 21 minutes to test Charlton’s Dillon Phillips, who got down quickly to block a close-range shot by Tom Barkhuizen at the far post after two defenders had failed to clear Darnell Fisher’s low cross from the left.

After 31 minutes Gallagher replaced the injured Daniel Johnson and he took over the armband and started to run the game.

Sean Maguire should have done better after 39 minutes when Tom Lockyer’s slip allowed him a free run in from the left but his final effort was a weak flick into the hands of Phillips. And Maguire was wasteful again two minutes later, shooting high over the crossbar at the end of a quick Preston break, as was Barkhuizen, heading over unchallenged from Fisher’s cross.

Preston appealed loudly for a penalty in the opening minutes of the second half when another cross by Fisher struck the raised arm of Jason Pearce. That appeal was in vain but referee David Webb did point to the spot after 57 minutes when Pearce barged into Jayden Stockley as they challenged for a cross from the left. Gallagher scored in trademark style, turning his back on the goal and walking away before turning and thumping the kick hard and low below the dive of Phillips.

Barkhuizen nearly doubled the lead when he slid in at the far post but was just unable to turn home Gallagher’s corner.

Back came Charlton, with Gallagher behind most of their best attacks. Chuks Aneke just missed a curling free-kick from Josh Cullen after 82 minutes, but Preston went even closer to a second when Stockley headed narrowly over. And they should have made sure in added time when Barkhuizen ran clear only for Phillips to save.

And Charlton almost made them pay in the 95th minute when Rudd missed Cullen’s corner but Purrington was unable to force the ball home.