Preston North End 0, Burnley 1

Burnley climbed back in to top spot in the Championship after beating rivals Preston North End in the derby at Deepdale.

Joey Barton grabbed the only goal of the game to extend the club's unbeaten run to 21 games in what was one of the stand out performances of the season.

Together: Burnley players celebrate with goalscorer Joey Barton

Together: Burnley players celebrate with goalscorer Joey Barton

And now they're just two games away from a Premier League return, with Middlesbrough and Brighton playing their games in hand tomorrow against Ipswich Town and Charlton respectively.

The Clarets were irresistible in the opening 45 minutes, comprehensively exposing the home side's 3-5-2 set-up.

In fact, Burnley's dominance was that remarkable it forced Lilywhites' boss Simon Grayson to see the error of his ways and revert to a 4-4-2 formation in a bid to contain their opponents.

Preston, firing towards a wall of more than 5,000 travelling fans, were quick out of the blocks and Jermaine Beckford glanced wide from Middlesbrough loanee Adam Reach's delivery after 30 seconds.

That, however, was as much as the hosts had to offer. Sean Dyche's side immediately identified and engulfed the space in behind Calum Woods and Reach, continuously bombarding the channels.

And it was Matt Lowton that capitalised early on when goalkeeper Chris Kirkland, who was training with Burnley in the summer, was unconvincing in clearing his lines from the full back's cross but George Boyd failed to hit the target.

Joey Barton's second goal for the club came from a simply stunning set-piece against Brighton in a 3-1 victory at Griffin Park.

His third wasn't quite as spectacular but it may prove even more memorable. After Andre Gray was grounded, the midfielder stepped up from 25 yards and beat Kirkland via a very fortuitous deflection.

After Michael Keane rescued a point against Middlesbrough midweek, Aitor Karanka bizarrely labelled the hosts as a "long ball" side.

I wonder if the Spaniard tuned in to Sky Sports to witness how ridiculous those claims were. The Clarets were imperious and North End had no answer.

Gray's cross narrowly evaded an unmarked Sam Vokes who had burst in to the six yard box while the Sky Bet Championship Player of the Year headed over the target from a sumptuous Barton set-piece that had travelled behind enemy lines.

Ben Mee headed in to the arms of Kirkland from Scott Arfield's corner as the visitors continued to probe before Dean Marney guided an effort wide from distance with the goalkeeper out of position having been sold short by Greg Cunningham's pass back.

There was even less Kirkland could do about the away side's next opportunity. Mee found a yard from his marker to meet Barton's free kick but, with Kirkland rooted to the spot, the ball brushed the outside of the upright.

The pressure was unrelenting, the hosts couldn't escape, and a couple of desperate blocks thwarted both Arfield and Gray following good work from Boyd when cutting in from the left hand side.

That prompted the tactical switch from Grayson as Woods dropped in to the full back role while Cunningham moved across.

The switch made North End more compact and they even mustered a chance at the end of the half as Joe Garner headed over from Paul Gallagher's corner.

The chances continued to rain in after the interval but still the Clarets couldn't extend their lead.

Vokes got too much on Barton's in-swinging free kick early on before the woodwork came to Kirkland's rescue. Gray watched Boyd's pass drop over his shoulder before rifling a right-footed shot against the foot of the near post.

Soon after the woodwork came to North End's rescue again when Kirkland was beaten by Boyd's attempt from distance but the ball clipped the top of the crossbar.

But once Arfield shaped the ball around the upright from the edge of the box, anxiety crept in as the hosts looked to spoil the party.

Woods' deflected drive flashed past the far post as the hosts responded and substitute Daniel Johnson should've done better when forcing Tom Heaton in to a relatively comfortable save. Garner then hooked the rebound over the bar.

Then, deep in to five minutes of time added on by referee Kevin Friend, Callum Robinson steered a shot goalwards but, with Heaton at full stretch, the ball looped over the bar.

The Clarets now have two games remaining - QPR at home and Charlton Athletic at the Valley on the final day.