Preston avoided finishing bottom of the npower Championship with a final-day 3-1 win over Watford at Deepdale.
Boss Phil Brown praised the response from his players which moved them above Sheffield United and Scunthorpe.
He said: "It is a proud feeling to not finish bottom. You always have to play with a purpose and ours was to get above the two teams immediately above us.
"I dangled the carrot of a motivation with regards to QPR because prior to kick-off we didn't know what was going to happen.
"Relegation was mentioned and if that was the case then we could have stayed up but that was the purpose for a great performance.
"It looked like we had been promoted which is astounding - the fans are a million percent behind what we are trying to achieve. They want to see passion from our players.
"Part of my job is knowing what the supporters want and they appreciate the fact we have bloodied seven debutants this season.
"The future is bright - there is no doubt about it. We have to cut our cloth accordingly now and if we lose our big earners so be it.
"We will be active in the market and it is up to me to be able to deal with players coming and going.
"We won't have a big squad next season but we will have a competitive one.
"I used to enjoy the difficult times you were put through in pre-season and that's what we have to get now. We will be prepared as a squad when we start next season."
Watford counterpart Malky Mackay admitted the season had been a huge success for his side despite a final-day reverse.
He said: "I'm disappointed by the result but we had a depleted squad and have made 14 debutants this season so we have to be delighted with that and where we have ended up.
"But I am disappointed we didn't manage to go on and get a draw out of the game but I can't fault the effort the players have put in.
"On another day the two or three chances we had inside the six-yard box, when we were 2-1 down, would go in.
"That's where we are as a football club. We had three Under-17s on the pitch and we knew at the start of the season we had a small squad and the second worst budget in the league and were tipped for relegation.
"We talked about the season we had and the strides we have made this season and to never flirt with the relegation side with it all season is fantastic. To finish higher than we did last season as well is a great achievement.
"We didn't flirt with relegation all season and to look around the dressing room and see so many kids, the coaching and football playing staff have a lot to be proud of."