A defensive nightmare condemned Walsall to a third defeat in a week as they went down at home to Preston.
The visitors were the better side throughout and took the lead after half-an-hour when Joel Byron’s free-kick was missed by everyone and ended up in the far corner.
And mistakes in the second half by left-back Mal Benning allowed Chris Humphreys and Lee Holmes to seal the win.
Walsall’s best chance saw substitute Andy Taylor force a save from visiting keeper Declan Rudd but it was on the whole a very poor showing as they slipped to a first home defeat in nine months.
Saddlers boss Dean Smith opted to recall Lalkovic, Adam Chambers and Benning, with Romaine Sawyers, Nicky Featherstone and Taylor all dropping down to the bench.
The Saddlers have made a habit of slow starts in recent games but even by those standards their first half showing here was incredibly pedestrian.
And the second half was even worse as defensive errors allowed the visitors to cruise to victory.
It was the visitors who had the first chance. A Kevin Davies through ball found Beavon but his shot, from just inside the box, was half-blocked by Andy Butler and was comfortably by gathered by Richard O’Donnell in the Saddlers goal.
The keeper had more trouble with a Chris Humphreys effort soon after when the winger had broken away down the right.
Sam Mantom had the first effort for the hosts but his shot from outside the area dribbled harmlessly wide.
But it was definitely Preston who were on top and they went closer still when Beavon glanced a header from a Lee Holmes cross which went just wide for the far post.
The Saddlers just weren’t at the races and were grateful to a brilliant block from James Chambers, which denied former Saddler Holmes after he had beaten the offside trap to go clear.
There were some signs of improvement from the hosts and Westcarr miscued a shot wide after great work by Baxendale and Lalkovic, before Hemmings shot wide from distance as the Saddlers looked to wake from their slumber.
But on the half hour mark the visitors took the lead with a goal which was, from a Saddlers point of view, sloppy in the extreme. Byrom’s free-kick from the right-wing was floated in and with Wright challenging at the far post, the ball missed everyone and ended up in the far bottom corner.
Preston twice went close to doubling their lead in the opening seconds of the second period. First Davies headed a Humphreys cross over from six yards out, before Beavon pulled a shot just wide from the edge of the box.
The visitors were once again on top and a ball across the face of goal from Holmes was just missed by Davies, with Laird unable to do anything other than put it wide at the far post.
And two goals in three minutes then put the game beyond doubt.
First Benning allowed Humphreys to skip past him and drill in a shot which took a slight deflection up and over O’Donnell.
Things then got even worse for the 19-year-old full-back when he miskicked a Humphreys cross and presented the ball on a plate to Holmes, who slid his shot between O’Donnell’s legs.
Smith introduced Sawyers, Taylor and Featherstone in a bid to turn things around.
Sawyers drilled a shot just past the post and Taylor forced a smart stop from Rudd at close range.
Nicky Wroe almost added a fourth for the visitors when he volleyed over from Davies’ flick.Subscribe to our Newsletter