LONDON: Aston Villa missed the chance to move into the automatic promotion places in England's second-tier Championship as they were held to a 1-1 home draw by Preston North End on Tuesday.
Steve Bruce's side knew that victory would have taken them one point clear of second-placed Cardiff City ahead of the Welsh outfit's visit to Ipswich on Wednesday, but failed to see off play-off hopefuls Preston.
The visitors took a 37th-minute lead as Villa goalkeeper Sam Johnstone failed to fully clear a corner and Tom Barkhuizen hooked in an acrobatic volley.
Preston were the better team before half-time as Johnstone was forced into two saves, but on-loan Bournemouth striker Lewis Grabban came off the bench to rescue a point from the penalty spot.
It was the January signing's first goal for Villa, coming after Keinan Davis was brought down by Barkhuizen.
Villa are now a point behind Cardiff, with runaway leaders Wolverhampton Wanderers 11 points clear at the top ahead of their Wednesday game against Norwich City.
Elsewhere on Tuesday, Sheffield United gave their promotion push a boost as they made it two straight wins by edging out Queens Park Rangers 2-1 at Bramall Lane.
Goals from centre-back Richard Stearman and John Lundstram were enough for the Blades despite a second-half strike from QPR forward Luke Freeman.
At the other end of the table, Bolton Wanderers hung on for a crucial 1-0 victory over fellow strugglers Sunderland at the Macron Stadium.
Forward Zach Clough, who has only recently rejoined Bolton on loan from Nottingham Forest, put the hosts ahead in the 17th minute, before goalkeeper Ben Alnwick made a string of late saves as Sunderland failed to find a leveller.
Chris Coleman's side remain rooted to the bottom of the table, three points adrift of safety, with Bolton now four points clear of the drop zone in 19th place.
Brentford thrashed relegation-threatened Birmingham City 5-0 at Griffin Park, while Middlesbrough moved to within two points of the play-off spots by beating local rivals Hull City 3-1.