At the time, the Cottagers were initially owned by Mohamed Al-Fayed, who began to inject money into them.
But for all their wealth, they had no answer to Ashcroft, Preston’s boy, who scored a hat-trick as PNE won 3-1 in that second division clash.
North End even gave its visitors to the capital a goal start, reversing Ashcroft’s hat-trick to end a four-game losing streak at home in the league.
After the game, Preston boss Gary Peters described it as a victory for “passion rather than money”.
Peters was delighted to finally have scored points on the board in a home game – it had been almost two months since that happened.
Things didn’t go as planned at the start, with North End falling behind in the sixth minute.
Mark Blake’s pass on the right wing was picked up by Paul Peschisolido who took the ball past left-back Dean Barrick.
Peschisolido sent a low cross into the box which PNE center-half Michael Jackson stretched to cut.
But he only managed to steer the ball in the path of Rob Scott who found the net at the near post.
The Lilywhites were tied in the 11th minute and what a cracker it was too.
Barrick took possession of the ball and gave the ball to Michael Appleton who played a nice one-two with Rankine before finding Ashcroft with a pass.
Ashcroft spun just inside the box and completed a superb finish in the top corner past goalkeeper Maik Taylor.
With their tails up, PNE went on the attack with Appleton seeing a shot saved by Taylor.
Tony Lormor shot a wide header, while Gary Parkinson was off target.
North End took a 2-1 lead in the 69th minute.
Ashcroft took possession of the area and was cut off by Neil Smith as he attempted to pass Fulham’s man.
Referee Eddie Lomas pointed the spot, Ashcroft rose to beat Taylor with the penalty.
The attacker’s hat-trick was achieved seven minutes from time.
Barrick’s pass found Rankine on the left side of the box.
Rankine brought the ball back to Ashcroft who sent it across the surface of the box before punching a shot in the bottom corner.
Ashcroft had to admit his hat trick had hardly happened as he had started to feel his hamstrings tighten.
However, he had been slow to wave at the bench and was glad he had been silent.
When his third goal hit the back of the net, Ashcroft alerted the bench and received a big hug from Peters as he left the pitch for a much-needed rest, with Michael Holt filling in for him up front.
Ashcroft’s hat-trick had brought his goal tally to five in the last five games, all when he had Lormor with him up front.
It was his first hat-trick under the colors of PNE, it was his second time at the club.
Another hat-trick had come earlier while playing for West Bromwich Albion.
Even at 3-1 and with Ashcroft’s feet in the dugout, North End continued to look to increase their lead.
Sean Gregan, who had been exceptional in the midfield, saw a shot in the timeout remove a coat of paint from the bar as he traveled a few inches too high.
The players left the field to a tremendous standing ovation from the Deepdale faithful, a job well done.