Leeds United were back to winning ways in style as they beat play-off rivals Preston 3-0 at Elland Road.
The Whites survived a few scares, but were much sharper in attack than in recent games to make sure Preston boss Simon Grayson was still left looking for his first win in five visits to the ground since he was sacked as Leeds manager.
Preston finished with 10 men as Alex Baptiste was red carded for an off the ball kick on Hernandez after they were already two down by then following first half goals from Kemar Roofe and Hernandez.
Substitute Souleymane Doukara put the icing on the cake with a third United goal in injury-time and they are back to within one point of fourth-placed Reading and 11 ahead of Preston.
It was Preston who made the better start and could have been ahead in the opening minute when Tom Barkhuizen was allowed a free header inside the six-yard box only to see his effort tipped over by Rob Green.
From the resulting corner Barkhuizen then saw his header saved comfortably by Green.
Leeds offered their first threat when Alfonso Pedraza made a long break from his own half only to see his attempted through ball to Roofe desperately cut out.
Preston threatened again through Barkhuizen who was through on an angle before shooting just wide.
But it was United who went ahead on 18 minutes as Kemar Roofe played a one-two with Chris Wood on the edge of box and got a bit lucky as his shot flicked off a Preston defender and looped over keeper Chris Maxwell into the net.
Paul Gallagher fired a shot wide from outside the box as the visitors continued to attack and Aiden McGeady sent another effort wide from distance.
Leeds finished the half strongly, however. A Luke Ayling shot almost fell for Wood then the Whites thought they had scored again when Wood went clean through and beat Maxwell.
The New Zealand striker looked offside, but no flag came from the linesman so it looked like a goal and the scorer was even announced at the ground. Referee Peter Bankes thought otherwise, though, and went to speak to his assistant, who promptly changed his mind and put his flag up.
Another chance followed when Pedraza’s run and pull back found Roofe in space in the box, but he scuffed his shot wide.
It was 2-0, however, as Hernandez raced onto Roofe’s through ball and got to it just ahead of the advancing Maxwell, poking the ball into the net.
The second half saw the Whites continue the good work with Ayling going on a good run and finding Roofe, whose shot was deflected wide.
Wood hit the crossbar with a snap shot from a corner and soon after Hernandez was put through only to see his shot deflected wide.
From the resulting corner Bartley’s header was cleared off the line with Preston hanging on at this stage.
Ronaldo Vieira, who was outstanding in midfield alongside the equally impressive Kalvin Phillips, got in a terrific shot that was well saved by Maxwell.
Preston made changes and went in for it with more forwards, bring on the tall Simon Makienok and ex-Leeds favourite Jermaine Beckford. They forced some pressure and Baptiste headed over from a corner followed by Beckford seeing a well struck shot well held by Green.
United had an amazing escape on 75 minutes when McGeady’s shot from distance was parried by Green straight to Barkhuizen ,whose shot then hit the underside of the crossbar. The ball fell for Makienok, but he headed over with the goal gaping.
That was it for Preston, however, as Leeds recovered their composure and began creating chances again.
Doukara, recently introduced as a substitute for Wood, was put clean through by Hernandez only to see Maxwell save well.
In added time it was Doukara through again from a Phillips pass and he made no mistake this time, beating Maxwell at his near post to complete a great 3-0 win.
Leeds United 3
(Roofe 18, Hernandez 45, Doukara 90+3)
Preston North End 0
Saturday, April 8, 2017
Leeds: Green, Ayling, Bartley, Jansson, Berardi, Phillips, Vieira, Roofe (Dallas 70), Hernandez (Taylor 87), Pedraza, Wood (Doukara 79).
Preston: Maxwell, Vermijl (Johnson 61), Clarke, Huntington, Baptiste (sent-off 86), Cunningham, Pearson, Gallagher (Makienok 71), McGeady, Barkhuizen, Robinson (Beckford 71).
Referee: Peter Bankes.