CHARLIE Austin marked his return from injury with the winning goal, as QPR overcame Leeds United with a 1-0 Sky Bet Championship victory at Loftus Road.
Rangers’ biggest home crowd of the season watched this one – and the win came following a dominant second half display.
Austin was brought on after 57 minutes and took only 60 seconds to register his eighth league goal of the campaign, heading home following Ale Faurlin’s right-wing corner.
Interim head coach Neil Warnock made two changes to his Rangers side for the visit of Leeds.
Leroy Fer’s sending off in our previous Championship fixture at Middlesbrough - a last-gasp defeat for the Hoops - meant he was forced to serve a one-match ban, while Karl Henry dropped to the bench.
So youth product Michael Petrasso was handed his first-ever senior start for QPR, with Junior Hoilett also brought into the starting XI.
Top scorer Austin was named among the substitutes.
This contest was a tight and physical affair from the offset – you’d expect nothing less with passionate characters Warnock and Leeds boss Steve Evans up against each other – as both teams battled for supremacy.
Faurlin fashioned the first attempt of the afternoon from a free-kick inside 10 minutes.
Rangers broke on the counter attack and when Hoilett was felled by debutant Liam Bridcutt 20 yards from goal, Argentine Faurlin stepped up to fire the ball over the crossbar.
Meanwhile, in the 21st minute, Petrasso saw a shot deflect into the arms of visiting goalkeeper Marco Silvestri.
Leeds almost found a way to goal six minutes later.
A pass put Chris Wood in behind the home defence but, after rounding R’s custodian Rob Green, he was subsequently forced wide.
The New Zealand international still worked a chance for himself, though, but couldn’t hit the target after blasting over from 10 yards – albeit at an acute angle.
At the other end, seven minutes later, QPR also went close.
Faurlin sent over an in-swinging corner from the right that was met by the head of Grant Hall, but his effort flew just over.
In the 38th minute, Petrasso also enjoyed a double chance but couldn’t work Silvestri.
Rangers arguably had the better of the possession heading into the break but it remained goalless as the half-time whistle sounded – despite the best efforts of Nedum Onuoha just seconds before.
The R’s captain went on a buccaneering run from defence before smashing a shot only inches over the target.
Much like the first half, the start to the second period was a bit of a scrap.
Warnock wasted little time in changing things, making a double substitution in the 57th minute.
Austin and Tjaronn Chery were both introduced, at the expense of Petrasso and Yun Suk-Young respectively.
Just seconds after his arrival, Austin almost got on the end of a Faurlin free-kick, though the ball just evaded him.
But it was that very same duo who combined again to give Rangers the lead in the 58th minute.
Austin got the goal just one minute after coming on, after meeting Faurlin’s right-flank corner six yards from goal.
What an impact from the R’s number nine.
The opening goal buoyed Rangers and, along with increased possession, the hosts forced a succession of corners soon after.
Austin almost added a second goal – again from a corner kick routine – in the 69th minute.
This time it was Matt Phillips who crossed from the left, before the hotshot’s subsequent header saw Silvestri produce a fine reaction save.
Two minutes later, Faurlin curled just wide of the upright from distance.
Now in total control, QPR also went close through Phillips 15 minutes from time, who worked space for himself before shooting just beyond the foot of the left-hand post.
All that was now missing was a second goal to settle proceedings, and it should have arrived in the 77th minute.
Chery started and ended the move, combining with fellow substitute Austin – but his resultant effort from 12 yards was too close to Silvestri in the Leeds goal, who tipped the ball wide.
The Dutchman also blazed over following a counter attack three minutes later.
United had their first shot on target in the 82nd minute, Lee Erwin perhaps wasteful from distance with a team-mate unmarked in the box.
But play soon returned to the other end. Hoilett should have done better with a header four minutes from time, following Phillips’ expert centre.
However, that miss mattered little ultimately, as Rangers hung on to claim three precious points – despite four minutes of injury time.