Cardiff 2-0 Preston North End: Match Report
Kenneth Zohore's birthday goal steers Cardiff to victory
Kenneth Zohore made it a birthday to remember after his sublime solo effort earned Cardiff a 2-0 win and ended Preston's unbeaten league run in 2017.
First-half goals from Peter Whittingham and Zohore, who turned 23 on Tuesday, lifted Cardiff 11 points clear of the relegation zone.
Meanwhile, Preston's five-game unbeaten Championship run came to an abrupt halt as they were second best throughout the evening in Wales.
After a quiet opening 10 minutes, Junior Hoilett's superb turn inside the box brought him space to shoot, but Preston skipper Tom Clarke thwarted the winger with a last-ditch block.
But Simon Grayson's men responded well to the early warning when Aiden McGeady marauded down the right wing and his pinpoint cross was just inches away from being met by Jordan Hugill.
Hoilett was in the thick of the action again after his mazy run into the box ended when he was tripped by Daniel Johnson.
Referee Graham Scott pointed to the spot and Whittingham, restored to the starting XI after a three-game absence, made no mistake from 12 yards to give Cardiff a deserved 18th-minute lead.
The Bluebirds doubled their goal advantage 10 minutes later thanks to a moment of brilliance from Zohore.
Whittingham's clearance fell to the birthday boy on the halfway line and he powered his way past three Preston players to dink the ball over Chris Maxwell.
Zohore is starting to repay the faith Cardiff boss Neil Warnock has shown in him after he said earlier this month that the frontman had saved him from spending big money on a striker in the January transfer window.
Lilywhites midfielder Ben Johnson wasted a golden opportunity to halve the deficit when Allan McGregor saved his shot from close range.
But they were also lucky not to be completely out of the game seconds before half-time as Sean Morrison's header was flicked onto the crossbar by Hoilett.
Preston came out firing in the second half with McGeady and Clarke each missing chances in quick succession to get their team back into the contest.
And they continued to pile on the pressure when top scorer Hugill fired over the bar from 10 yards following a well-worked corner.
Zohore could have killed the game off just after the hour mark but he was denied by Maxwell after being put through on goal by substitute Matthew Connolly.
Cardiff's win ended a two-game losing streak, putting them closer to the top six than the bottom three.