Match ends, Brentford 1, Preston North End 0.
Brentford 1-0 Preston North End: Ollie Watkins hits winner as Bees close gap on Championship leaders
Brentford moved one point behind second-placed West Bromwich Albion in the Championship table after a narrow win over Preston North End at Griffin Park.
Ollie Watkins' early goal, his 25th of the season, proved enough to give the Bees their eighth straight victory and keep the pressure on the Baggies in the race for automatic promotion.
Home goalkeeper David Raya made a fine save to keep out a Darnell Fisher free-kick, while Said Benrahma shot narrowly wide for the west Londoners after the break.
Preston threatened in the second half but defeat all but ends their hopes of a place in the play-offs, with the Lilywhites five points off the top six with two games of the campaign remaining.
Bees resist North End challenge
Brentford's front three of Watkins, Benrahma and Bryan Mbeumo had scored 56 goals between them this season heading into the game - as many as the whole Preston squad had managed in the league.
Watkins opened the scoring in the fourth minute, to become the Championship's outright top scorer, latching onto a clever dinked through ball from Emiliano Marcondes and sending a first-time half-volley flashing past keeper Declan Rudd.
Raya raced off his line to foil an attempt from Tom Barkhuizen, and the Spanish keeper was at full stretch to palm away Fisher's side-footed free-kick from 25 yards out.
Benrahma almost made it 2-0 just before half-time with a powerful shot from inside the box, but Rudd saved.
The Bees defence stood firm as Preston came into the game in the second half and probed in search of an equaliser, with Watkins making a vital defensive clearance following a set-piece.
A run of one win in 10 games stretching back to February has seen North End slide down the table and out of contention for a place in the play-offs.
Bees keep up heat on West Brom
Brentford have won all seven games since the restart in June and their winning streak - their best-ever run in the second tier - began with a 5-0 demolition of Sheffield Wednesday on 7 March.
Thomas Frank's Bees beat West Brom in their second game back, and the Baggies know they have little margin for error following a goalless draw with Fulham on Tuesday.
Brentford are also three points behind Championship leaders Leeds, although the Whites have a game in hand against bottom club Barnsley on Thursday (17:00 BST).
Albion go to struggling Huddersfield Town on Friday, while, on Saturday, Brentford travel to a Stoke City side who are yet to secure their own survival.
The Bees have not played in the top flight since 1946-47 but even if they do miss out on a top-two finish they will prove a threat to any side in the play-offs, given their fine form since the resumption and the potency of their forward line.
Brentford head coach Thomas Frank: "Sometimes you forget to enjoy the moment and just move on to the next one.
"We have won eight on the bounce playing some top football and it is eight well-deserved wins.
"In a league which we call the most even league in the world, that is remarkable.
"We are in the play-offs, so why not give it a go for direct promotion? We are on a high but I am not thinking at all about the game after Saturday and seeing if we can win nine in a row."
Preston manager Alex Neil: "I don't think we played poorly. We're playing against a team which is fighting for promotion.
"The way we went about it I thought was very good. I've seen Brentford a lot and they rip teams apart.
"It's just frustrating because I thought we had some good performances tonight, and in the second half we penned them in for the first 20 minutes."
- 17MarcondesSubstituted forZamburekat 88'minutes
- 8JensenSubstituted forDasilvaat 67'minutes
- 19MbeumoSubstituted forValencia Castilloat 75'minutes
- 11WatkinsBooked at 90mins
- 10BenrahmaBooked at 63mins
- 16Valencia Castillo
- 2FisherSubstituted forStockleyat 74'minutes
- 18LedsonSubstituted forHarropat 84'minutes
- 15RaffertyBooked at 53mins
- 8BrowneSubstituted forPottsat 74'minutes
- 29BarkhuizenSubstituted forSinclairat 75'minutes
- 24MaguireSubstituted forBodinat 84'minutes
- Darren England
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Brentford 1, Preston North End 0.
Attempt missed. Patrick Bauer (Preston North End) header from the centre of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Joseph Rafferty with a cross following a set piece situation.
Foul by Rico Henry (Brentford).
Jayden Stockley (Preston North End) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Ollie Watkins (Brentford) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Ollie Watkins (Brentford).
Declan Rudd (Preston North End) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt saved. Josh Dasilva (Brentford) left footed shot from the right side of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Saïd Benrahma.
Attempt saved. Josh Harrop (Preston North End) header from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Andrew Hughes with a headed pass.
Foul by Henrik Dalsgaard (Brentford).
Jayden Stockley (Preston North End) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Offside, Preston North End. Patrick Bauer tries a through ball, but Jayden Stockley is caught offside.
Foul by Ethan Pinnock (Brentford).
Brad Potts (Preston North End) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Brentford. Jan Zamburek replaces Emiliano Marcondes.
Substitution, Preston North End. Billy Bodin replaces Sean Maguire.
Substitution, Preston North End. Josh Harrop replaces Ryan Ledson.
Christian Nørgaard (Brentford) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Brad Potts (Preston North End).