North End lie fourth bottom in the Coca-Cola Championship but they belied their lowly status with a vibrant display and the award of a 60th-minute spot-kick put them on course for a famous victory.

But James flung his 6ft 5in frame to his right to deny Preston midfielder Simon Whaley from 12 yards - and Carter compounded the misery among home supporters when he bundled the ball into his own net late on.

James excelled throughout and fine second-half saves from Chris Brown and substitute Neil Mellor further enhanced his claims to remain as England's number one goalkeeper for the foreseeable future.

The 37-year-old, restored in a Three Lions shirt by Fabio Capello, has fixed his sights on being England's number one goalkeeper at the next World Cup.

He will be pushing 40 when the finals in South Africa come around in 2010, but he has rarely enjoyed better form than at present.

James' heroics and Carter's late intervention prevented Harry Redknapp's men joining the likes of Liverpool and Arsenal in being bundled out of the competition.

Redknapp made five changes for today's game, rearranging his side in a 4-5-1 formation.

Milan Baros, Richard Hughes, Lauren and Noe Paramot were all dropped while Jermain Defoe was cup-tied - in came Kanu, Sylvain Distin, Sulley Muntari, John Utaka and Glen Johnson.

Preston manager Alan Irvine replaced the suspended Sean St Ledger with Youl Mawene at centre-back - and the home side's playmaker Paul McKenna set a captain's example in the fifth minute with a thunderous 25-yard shot which drew a fine block from Papa Bouba Diop.

The ball spun back towards Portsmouth's goal, however, and Sol Campbell needed to be alert to make a vital interception to avert the danger.

In the 13th minute Carter's inswinging corner was greeted by an uncharacteristically flimsy punch from James - and the Pompey backline were required to clear the loose ball.

Preston threatened again midway through the half when Whaley saw a shot blocked by Glen Johnson and then fired the rebound high and wide from 12 yards.

Despite the work ethic of Preston's front pairing of Karl Hawley and Brown, neither looked like scoring.

Nor did Kanu and the sound of the home supporters chanting David Nugent's name - the one-capped England striker who Portsmouth paid Preston £5million for last summer - said everything.

Nugent, currently sidelined following a recent hernia operation, scored 35 goals in two-and-a-half seasons at Deepdale before his summer switch to the south coast.

But he has struggled to make any impact at Fratton Park since his big-money move and was possibly the most frustrated spectator of all high up in the Sir Tom Finney Stand.

Nugent's current employers tested Andy Lonergan in the 37th minute when Muntari's curling free-kick from 25 yards drew a smart stop from the North End goalkeeper.

Portsmouth threatened briefly after the break when Johnson advanced forward at pace from right-back before cutting infield and hitting a fierce 20-yard shot straight at Lonergan.

Preston responded moments later, however, when Carter had a volley blocked by Diop.

Pompey came even closer shortly before the hour mark when Niko Kranjcar crossed from the left and Mawene almost put the ball past his own goalkeeper before Lonergan got down low to prevent the ball crossing the line.

Preston's big chance came when Distin clumsily felled Billy Jones as he sought to break clear after collecting Whaley's pass.

Whaley stepped up from 12 yards but James dived to his right and the visiting defence cleared the danger from the rebound.

James continued to excel - reacting superbly to get a hand to Brown's long-range strike before doing likewise to repel a 20-yard piledriver from Mellor.

The home side continued to pile on the pressure but Pompey stole victory when Kranjcar's late corner ended up in the net via the unfortunate Carter.