In a game of many twists and turns, Preston took a two goal lead as Chris Inglis beat the offside trap in the 22nd minute to slide a shot past the exposed Vale goalkeeper, before a sliced clearance dropped into the goalmouth and Gary McCormack got his head to the ball first.
Vale pulled one back shortly before half time as Danny Noon got the final touch in a goalmouth scramble. Nine minutes into the second half, another goal from Noon drew Vale level and two minutes later Wayne Sproule edged them ahead.
Just past the hour mark a composed finish from Jack Blaikie made it 4-2 and put the Borders side in a seemingly commanding position, but Gary McCormack notched his second of the afternoon in the 66th minute to close the gap and the scores were again level three minutes later when Preston captain Kevin Morrison forced the ball home from a corner.
Seven minutes from time Blaikie guided home a Jerry Draper free kick to put Vale ahead again, but in the fourth minute of injury time Athletic snatched a dramatic equaliser when an almighty scramble ended with Ross Colquhoun bundling the ball over the line.
Preston Athletic: Robertson, Stewart (Colquhoun 60), Kerr (Barr 27), Cherry, Morrison, Bennett (S McCormack 56), G McCormack, Scott, Martin, Arthur, Inglis. Sub: Trialist.
Vale of Leithen: S Inglis, J Paterson, Draper, McKenzie (K Paterson 24), Blaikie, C Inglis, W Sproule, Gordon, Noon (Devlin 85), Moffat (Smith 74), Cairney. Subs: Dodds, Hudson.