HULL City deprived QPR of a dream start to life back in the top flight by inflicting a 1-0 defeat on the opening day of the Barclays Premier League season.
Harry Redknapp’s newly-promoted charges enjoyed the better of a free-flowing first half but fell behind to James Chester’s headed goal early after the re-start.
Allan McGregor came to City’s rescue at the other end late on, keeping out Charlie Austin’s 85th-minute penalty to leave W12 with all three points.
Redknapp handed summer signings Steven Caulker, Rio Ferdinand and Jordon Mutch starts but fellow new recruit Mauricio Isla missed out as the Chilean waits for international clearance.
Richard Dunne joined Caulker and Ferdinand in defence ahead of goalkeeper Rob Green, flanked by Danny Simpson and Armand Traore on either side, while Joey Barton – wearing the captain’s armband – and Ale Faurlin made up the midfield.
Loic Remy returned to the starting XI for the first time since his season-long loan at Newcastle United, partnering Austin in attack with Mutch in support as the R’s new-look 3-5-2 formation took shape in front of sell-out Loftus Road at kick-off.
In a bright opening by both sides, Hull – without suspended striker Yannick Sagbo – fashioned the first half chance on eight minutes. Andrew Robertson’s searching cross was glanced on by Nikica Jelavic but the Croat’s header sailed harmlessly wide of Green’s goal.
Meanwhile, Remy was first to test McGregor at the other end on the quarter-hour mark. The Frenchman took aim from distance but saw his long-range attempt deflect straight into the goalkeeper’s arms.
The move spurred Rangers onto the frontfoot, threatening again less than three minutes later. After a corner from Barton eventually found its way through to Faurlin inside the area, his shot squirmed a yard wide of McGregor’s far post.
Remy’s turn of pace continued to cause the visiting defence problems, culminating in the first booking of the afternoon on 27 minutes as Curtis Davies was cautioned for a foul 25 yards out.
Remy was involved again as Rangers came even closer to breaking the deadlock on the half-hour. Austin and Remy linked up well before the latter found Mutch with an inviting cross, only to see the midfielder’s deft header flash agonisingly wide of the far post.
Meanwhile, injury forced the visitors into a change before half-time as Stephen Quinn replaced Robert Snodgrass five minutes before the break.
There was still time for one final threat to the visiting goal as Caulker came within inches of the opener. His downward header from Barton’s corner beat McGregor but was cleared off the line by Robertson to preserve parity at the interval.
Hull re-organised for the re-start, introducing Paul McShane at the expense of Alex Bruce in defence.
But it was another defender who fired the visitors into the lead seven minutes later. Quinn’s corner was met by Chester at the back post, who stooped to head low into the far corner from six yards.
Despite scoring somewhat against the run of play, a quick counter-attack almost saw the visitors double the lead ten minutes after their opener. Quinn teed-up Tom Ince inside the box but was foiled superbly by Green, with the goalkeeper’s outstretched leg denying City a certain second.
Redknapp responded with a double change midway into the second half. Matty Phillips and Junior Hoilett were introduced as Simpson and Faurlin made way.
Seconds later Green was called upon to thwart Ince again. After Dunne was booked for upending Jelavic, Green safely clawed the midfielder’s resulting free-kick behind. Moments later, Dunne’s block diverted Jelavic’s fizzing volley over.
Dunne would be sacrificed shortly after as play-off final hero Bobby Zamora arrived with 12 minutes remaining as Rangers went in search of an equaliser.
His impact would be almost immediate, releasing Hoilett down the left before his cross was adjudged to have been handled by Chester at the expense of a penalty.
Austin stepped up but was thwarted by McGregor, diving low to his right to keep out the striker’s spot-kick.
McGregor was City’s hero again in stoppage time, tipping over from Remy as the R’s were left frustrated at the final whistle despite an encouraging opening day display.