Eoin Doyle's second-minute strike was enough to seal victory for the hosts, who were relieved to see their visitors squander a number of opportunities over the course of the evening.
Dougie Freedman was able to recall Dorus de Vries, Eric Lichaj and Ryan Mendes, who missed the weekend defeat at Hillsborough with knocks. Kelvin Wilson, Dimitar Evtimov and Dexter Blackstock dropped to the bench.
Young midfielders Ben Osborn and Jorge Grant were brought into Forest's midfield, with experienced pair David Vaughan and Henri Lansbury missing out through suspension.
Osborn had a chance to put Forest ahead with less than two minutes on the clock, latching on to Mendes' through ball. North End keeper Jordan Pickford was out quickly to save his effort.
Pickford's opposite number, de Vries, was helpless to prevent his own side from going behind seconds later, however. The Dutchman palmed away Daniel Johnson's shot but the ball dropped for Doyle in the area. His deflected effort left the keeper with no chance as Preston took an early lead.
Doyle could have had his second goal of the night on six minutes when Adam Reach's low cross from the left had enough pace to reach the forward in the middle. He couldn't keep his first-time effort down, however.
Forest's response came from Lichaj, who cut in from the right and lashed the ball a couple of the yards over the bar with his left foot.
It was proving to be a frantic start and on eight minutes former Red Joe Garner looked to get in on the action by latching on to Reach's cross at the back post. He headed the ball just over the bar.
The game settled briefly before Mendes reminded the visitors of Forest's threat with a shot that whistled just wide of the post from just outside the 'D'.
And the Cape Verde international built on his strike with a brilliant run a minute later. A Preston defender attempted to clear Mendes' cross but could only cannon the ball off Nelson Oliveira six yards out. Pickford was relieved to see the ball drop into his clutches.
The Reds had the ball in the net shortly afterwards but Matt Mills' header from Ben Osborn's free-kick was ruled out for offside.
Two minutes later it was Jamie Ward's turn to be frustrated as Pickford dived to his right to push his long-range, left-footed curler wide.
Garner had another good chance to double his own side's lead moments later, benefiting from determined work by Morgan to receive the ball on the edge of the area. Garner had time to knock the ball out of his feet before firing it just wide.
Oliveira's presence began to grow on 33 minutes when he received the ball just inside the area and saw his low shot saved by Pickford.
And the Portuguese forward had a golden opportunity to equalise shortly afterwards when he ran on to Osborn's inch-perfect through ball. Oliveira could only roll the ball across goal and wide of the far post.
Sloppiness was creeping into the hosts' game and, with half-time approaching, they conceded possession cheaply to Mendes. He slipped Ward in down the right and the winger tried his luck from a tight angle. His shot skimmed the bar on its way behind for a goal kick.
The Reds' pressure was building and they had another shot at goal on 39 minutes. Oliveira chested the ball down for Osborn who let it bounce before striking it sweetly towards goal. Pickford was well positioned to make a comfortable save.
Two minutes were added on at the end of the half and Garner nearly sent his side into the break in buoyant mood when he headed the ball goalwards following a cross from the right. De Vries dived to his right to hang on to the ball.
Forest reemerged unchanged and Mendes went in search of an equaliser with an hour on the clock. He did brilliantly to cut inside from the left but took too long to shoot and was closed down.
That was to be Mendes' last action as, three minutes later, Jonny Williams replaced him. Tyler Walker also entered the fray in place of Grant.
The second half was proving to be a much quieter affair than the first but Preston had a glimpse of a second goal when Garner's shot was spilled by de Vries with 18 minutes to play. The keeper recovered the ball just in time to ease the danger.
Forest had a chance to apply some pressure at the other end when Ward won a free-kick in a good crossing position. His whipped delivery caused chaos in the Preston area but the home side managed to hoof the ball clear.
With nine minutes to play, Ward made way for Dexter Blackstock.
And as play resumed, Pickford had to be alert to hold on to Oliveira's low, fizzed effort from 25 yards.
Blackstock and Preston's Paul Huntington found themselves in the book following an off-the-ball clash with five minutes to play as the hosts edged within touching distance of victory.
Four minutes were added on at the end of the match, in the last seconds of which Osborn's free-kick caused more havoc in the Preston box. Forest were unable to find the goal they needed, however, and the match ended 1-0 to the hosts.
Forest: De Vries, Lichaj, Mills (c), Hobbs, Pinillos, Mendes (Williams 63'), Trotter, Grant (Walker 63'), Osborn, Ward (Blackstock 81'), Oliveira
Subs not used: Evtimov, Wilson, C.Burke, O'Grady
Booking: Blackstock 85'
Pickford, Vermijl (Huntington 83'), Woods, Wright, Cunningham, Browne (Welsh 57'), Johnson, Gallagher, Reach, Garner, Doyle (Kilkenny 83')
Subs not used: Kirkland, Keane, May, Hugill
Goal: Doyle 2'
Bookings: Huntington 85', Welsh 90'
Referee: Tony Harrington
Attendance: 10,216 (658 away)