Alan Browne and Robbie Brady combined for what proved to be the winning goal in an incident filled 2-1 victory for Preston North End away to Birmingham City in the SkyBet Championship.

Three pitch invaders briefly halted the game as away-day specialists Preston inflicted a fifth straight league defeat on Birmingham in a 2-1 win at St Andrew's that saw referee Rebecca Welch make history.

In the first Championship game to be refereed in full by a female official, first league goals of the season from Ryan Ledson and captain Browne, who was assisted by Brady, in the opening 15 minutes won it for Ryan Lowe’s side.

Substitute Lukas Jutkiewicz made it a nervy finish when he reduced the arrears late on, but North End earned their eighth win on their travels – a record equalled only by second-placed Sheffield United in the division.

But before then, the match was temporarily brought to a standstill when three Birmingham fans ran onto the pitch in the 77th minute to protest against the club’s board.

Will Smallbone opened the scoring as Stoke claimed their first points of 2023 with a 4-0 thrashing of Reading.

Smallbone's smart early finish paved the way for the Potters, who secured a first home victory since early November.

The influential Tyrese Campbell doubled the advantage in the second half to tighten the hosts' grip before Jacob Brown added a late third.

And an impressive Stoke performance was rounded off by Dwight Gayle, who scored his first goal since December 2020 in fortuitous circumstances.

Jay Fulton's late equaliser earned Swansea a point in a 1-1 draw at QPR.

Jamal Lowe’s goal on his full debut, against his former club, put Rangers ahead on 27 minutes.

But the Welsh side hit back with a well-worked goal with nine minutes remaining – their first shot on target when Ryan Manning played a clever reverse pass to Luke Cundle, who might have looked to score himself but instead teed up Fulton for a simple finish.

Norwich continued their superb start under new boss David Wagner with a 4-2 victory at Coventry.

Having thrashed Preston 4-0 in Wagner's first league game in charge, the Canaries raced into a 3-0 lead inside 18 minutes through a Michael Rose own goal and strikes by Onel Hernandez and Josh Sargent.

Coventry reduced the deficit to one with quickfire hits from Jamie Allen and Kasey Palmer – all five goals coming inside the opening 26 minutes – before Kieran Dowell added a fourth for Norwich in the 65th minute.

Wigan remain rooted to the bottom of the table after suffering a second home defeat to Luton in the space of four days – with the Hatters easing to a 2-0 win.

Having won on this ground in midweek to advance to the fourth round of the FA Cup, Luton started the brighter and took only 11 minutes to open the scoring through Harry Cornick.

The visitors doubled their lead nine minutes after the restart when Elijah Adebayo collected a return pass from Cornick before slotting past Ben Amos with ease, leaving Wigan boss Kolo Toure winless from his last seven games.

Will Smallbone of Stoke City celebrates

Blackburn battled their way to a 1-1 draw with Bristol City at Ashton Gate despite having captain Daniel Ayala sent off.

The visitors went in front after 54 minutes when Tyler Morton got behind City's defence on the right and pulled back a perfect cross for Bradley Dack to shoot home from eight yards.

But City levelled 14 minutes later as Rovers goalkeeper Thomas Kaminski could only a parry a Zak Vyner shot from outside the box and Antoine Semenyo slotted home the rebound.

Joao Ferreira rescued a point for Watford in a 1-1 draw with Rotherham but the result did little to help their automatic promotion chances.

In addition to Ferreira's superb equaliser from 20 yards, which cancelled out Shane Ferguson’s first-half opener, Watford clipped the visitors’ woodwork on two occasions on what proved to be a frustrating afternoon for the Vicarage Road crowd.

Welshman Tom Bradshaw increased Cardiff City's relegation fears and kept Millwall in the Championship play-off mix with the only goal of the game in south Wales.

Meanwhile, Blackpool's game against Huddersfield was postponed because of a frozen pitch.