The appointment of David Moyes as manager in January 1998 would prove to be the catalyst for success for the remainder of the decade for Preston North End.
Moyes, then 34, had spent the majority of his playing career preparing for coaching.
He had already secured his coaching badges by the time he took the job at Deepdale, having worked as assistant manager for a spell prior.
There were genuine relegation fears when the Scotsman took over, with North End seemingly slipping back towards Division Three.
Those fears were soon quashed, however, PNE finishing nine points above the drop zone at the end of the 1997/98 season.
They started the following season brightly and sat in fourth place at the turn of the year, with a game in hand on second placed Walsall.
Moyes and North End then kicked off 1999 with the visit of Arsene Wenger’s high flying Arsenal side in the FA Cup.
Arsenal were reigning Premier League champions, and would run Manchester United all the way in 1999, but they almost came unstuck at Deepdale.
Preston went 2-0 up against the Gunners inside just 21 minutes, forward Kurt Nogan netting both.
His first came from a tap in, before Arsenal ‘keeper Alex Manninger missed the ball from a corner and Nogan nodded home.
Moyes’s side looked set to hold out until half time with a two goal advantage before Luis Boa Morte halved the deficit.
PNE were unable to cope with Arsenal in the second half, with Emmanuel Petit scoring twice & Marc Overmars adding a fourth, two minutes after the Frenchman’s second on 79 minutes.
With North End out of the cup, they could prioritise league action.
They won their next three games following the Arsenal clash before a 3-1 loss away at Bournemouth. That was then followed up by a dominating 5-0 win at Wrexham.
North End’s form from then on was not quite as strong, winning just two of their last 10 games of the season.
That effectively ruled them out of automatic promotion contention, but they still finished the season in fifth position, securing a play off place.
Their opponents were Gillingham, managed then by Tony Pulis.
The Welshman had been at the Gills for four years and had taken them from the bottom of the Football League.
North End drew the first leg 1-1 at home, conceding a late away goal.
Gillingham took advantage of that leveller in the second leg, winning 1-0 to take themselves into the final, one which they would eventually lose to Manchester City.
Despite playoff heartbreak, Moyes and North End looked to push on in the 1999/00 season.
They won their opening two games, Jon Macken scoring the winner in the first against Walsall.
Macken, signed from Manchester United for £500,000 under Gary Peters, would go on to have to a crucial part to play for the rest of the season.
In the first six games of the season, Preston lost twice, the second of those a 2-0 home defeat to Chesterfield in October, who eventually finished bottom of the league.
After that result, however, North End didn’t lose a league game again until mid-January, a 2-1 defeat to Stoke bringing their unbeaten run to an end.
They conceded just eight goals in those three months, mainly thanks to solid performances from goalkeeper Tepi Moilanen and back four Graham Alexander, Colin Murdock, Michael Jackson and Rob Edwards.
Despite that, North End still sat two points off top after the Stoke defeat, Wigan occupying first place.
The Latics fell away towards the end of the season though, allowing Preston to power on.
One of Moyes’s key decisions was the signing of Brett Angell on loan, the forward scoring five goals in three games in March.
North End also won 3-0 at promotion rivals Burnley, a result which would prove to be important come the end of the season.
Moyes’s side then went on another run of clean sheets, securing eight in a row between the end of March and the end of April.
That run came to an end on 24th April when they lost 2-0 at Cambridge.
Despite defeat, promotion and a return to the First Division was confirmed.
Preston finished top of the league on 95 points at the season’s end, eight points ahead of second-placed Burnley.
Macken was the club’s top scorer, notching 22 goals, although was beaten to the league honour by Burnley’s Andy Payton (27).
The following season, Moyes led the club to the play off final against Sam Allardyce’s Bolton, meaning the club were just one game away from the Premier League.
They lost the game 3-0 – Moyes then left the club in March 2002 to join Everton.
For a number of players who played under Moyes at North End, him reaching the top was never in doubt.
Along with Gary Peters, the Scotsman took North End away from the dark days of the early 90s, and forward to more promising times.
As for Jon Macken, such a crucial component of North End’s rise up the First Division, he stayed at the club until 2002 before moving to Manchester City for what was then a club-record sale of £5 million.
Peters stayed at North End as the club’s Centre of Excellence manager, an academy known for bringing through the likes of Paul McKenna and Andrew Lonergan.
He spent time managing Exeter and Shrewsbury, the latter of which has to date been his last managerial role since leaving in 2008.
Moyes, of course, spent 11 successful years at Goodison Park before moving to Manchester United in 2013.
He was sacked by United in April 2014 before spending time at Real Sociedad, Sunderland and West Ham, where he became the fourth Premier League manager to record 200 wins.
The Scot left the Hammers last summer and has since been without a club – given his success & high reputation in management it will surely not be long until he makes a return.
North End would go on to reach the play off final again in 2005 under Billy Davies, losing 1-0 to West Ham at Wembley.
They fell at the play off hurdle again in 2006, losing 3-1 to Leeds on aggregate in the semi finals.
Given that 20 years previous, however, the club almost went out of existence and when compared to the dark days of the Fourth Division, a Championship play off semi final was some achievement.