Stoke came into the game on the back of an impressive 3-2 victory over fellow relegation strugglers Sheffield Wednesday.
Stoke set the pace early on and in the 16th minute a Peter Hoekstra free-kick from the right provided Sergei Shtaniuk with a perfect ball but his powerful header was palmed wide by David Lucas.
The Potters finally hit the back of the net in the 42nd minute when a ball from the right by Marcus Hall was headed down by Chris Iwelumo then missed by Chris Greenacre but finally finished by Brynjar Gunnarsson who drove the ball into the bottom left corner of Lucas' goal.
Stoke made it 2-0 before the break when a cross by Iwelumo on the right met Hoeskstra over on the left who approached the keeper and hammered home his shot underneath Lucas.
Tony Pulis' men seemed to have the game under control at half-time and it would take a lot of hard work from Preston to pull back a two-goal deficit.
Preston managed to get a clear-cut chance in the 75th minute when Eddie Lewis broke down the left wing to provide a cross for substitute Pawel Abbott who slid in under pressure but could only manage to hit the bar from six yards.
The Lilywhites grabbed a goal but it was only to be a consolation when, in the 90th minute, a corner from Brian Barry-Murphy caused chaos in the six-yard box but the ball came out to Abbott who neatly finished in the bottom left of Steve Banks' goal.
Preston manager Craig Brown said after the match: "It's not a good new year at preston.
"We could have been more down at half-time but I've got to give credit to Stoke, their attitude was excellent and they deserved to be ahead at the break.
"We've got to be at our best when we go to Rotherham."