Hulse (right) scored one Leeds goal and created the other
Leeds reached the Championship play-off final after goals from Rob Hulse and Frazer Richardson gave the Yorkshire club a 3-1 victory on aggregate.
Hulse headed Leeds ahead from a corner and then turned provider, Richardson converting his low pass across goal.
Preston's Tyrone Mears had a goal ruled out after the ball was adjudged to have gone out of play from a corner.
Leeds ended the game with nine players after Stephen Crainey and, late on, Richard Cresswell were dismissed.
It was a superb defensive display from Leeds, who snuffed out Preston's attacking threat for most of the evening.
Two goals in a five minute second-half burst from Leeds sealed the tie - and takes United to within 90 minutes of a return to the Premiership after a two-season absence.
But for Preston it was an evening of further misery in the end-of-season play-offs - North End have now failed to win promotion through them in seven attempts.
Preston's evening got off to a terrible start when Brett Ormerod was stretchered off with 10 minutes gone after sustaining a broken bone in his right leg as he was fouled by Jonathon Douglas.
But North End were certainly the more positive going forward, although neither side threatened until Richardson forced a good save from Preston keeper Carlo Nash with a dipping strike from 20 yards.
Preston struggled to open up their opponents' well-drilled defence, though Danny Dichio should have done better with a header when unmarked.
A power failure struck Deepdale during the half-time interval and play did not resume until 2110 BST - a delay of 25 minutes.
The delay did not seem to affect Leeds, who showed more intent after the break and took the lead after 56 minutes.
Hulse lost his marker, Youl Mawene, and made a clean contact with Gary Kelly's corner, guiding the ball past Nash from five yards.
And more good work from Hulse five minutes later saw Leeds double their advantage.
He cut in from the left and, under pressure from Mawene, drilled a low cross to Richardson, who shot into the bottom corner.
Nash appeared to have blocked Richardson's shot but the ball had enough pace on it to take it over the line.
The lights went out at Deepdale at half-time - and for Preston at the end of the match
Preston tried to force their way back into the tie - and with 22 minutes left were handed a numerical advantage when Crainey was dismissed after picking up a second yellow.
Paul McKenna forced a save with a free kick and Matthew Kilgallon deflected a Nugent shot over the crossbar.
Mears headed home a corner but the goal was ruled out when the linesman adjudged that the ball had swerved out and then back into play.
There was one last piece of drama when Leeds substitute and former Preston player Richard Cresswell was dismissed deep into injury time.
He was given a second yellow for kicking the ball away - but seconds later the final whistle sounded to confirm Leeds' passage through to the final.
Preston: Nash, Mears, Davis, Alexander, Mawene, Ormerod (Whaley 10), O'Neil, McKenna, Stewart (Agyemang 45), Nugent, Dichio.
Subs Not Used: Ward, Sedgwick, Wilson.
Leeds: Sullivan, Kelly, Gregan, Kilgallon, Crainey, Richardson, Derry, Miller, Douglas, Lewis (Stone 88), Hulse (Cresswell 78).
Subs Not Used: Healy, Bakke, Blake.
Sent Off: Crainey (68), Cresswell (90).
Booked: Derry, Kilgallon, Gregan, Crainey, Miller, Cresswell, Kelly, Douglas.
Goals: Hulse 56, Richardson 61.
Ref: M Thorpe (Suffolk).