The French defender struck after 14 minutes when his near post volley from Graham Alexander's low corner deflected into the net off home striker Alan Lee.
Cardiff had begun brightly, and felt aggrieved when Lee had a goal rule out for handball after just six minutes.
Preston goalkeeper Jonathon Gould was kept busy all game, saving well from Lee, Joe Ledley, Lee Bullock and then James Collins in injury time.
Cardiff full-back Darren Williams:
"We gave ourselves an uphill battle after going one down early on, and as a
team we never produced.
"We gave every effort but we let ourselves down by not creating clear scoring opportunities.
"We have a lot of youngsters in the side and it is difficult for them as there is a lot of pressure on us to do well at home.
"As a team we defended well but created nothing. A goal from a set-piece is disappointing but we have to put it down to being just one of those nights."
Cardiff: Warner, Williams (Weston 72), Gabbidon, Collins,
Barker (Thomas 82), McAnuff, Bullock, Boland (Jerome 61),
Ledley, Lee, Parry.
Subs Not Used: Vidmar, Alexander.
Preston: Gould, Curtis (Daley 52), Mawene, Lucketti, Broomes,
Alexander, O'Neil, McKenna, Lewis, Cresswell,
Agyemang (Davidson 73).
Subs Not Used: O'Neill, McCormack, Ward.
Booked: Cresswell, Lewis.
Goals: Mawene 14.
Ref: P Crossley (Kent).