BATTLING QPR were only just edged out in this west London derby, in which Eden Hazard’s 75th-minute penalty proved to be the difference at Stamford Bridge.
Earlier, Charlie Austin cancelled out an impressive Oscar effort in the second half to give Rangers hope.
But after Eduardo Vargas was adjudged to have felled Hazard in the box, the Belgian international dusted himself down to sweep home the resultant penalty.
Nevertheless, R’s players and fans alike could make the short trip home with a feeling of pride, only just losing out to the Premier League leaders.
Rangers boss Harry Redknapp made the one change to his side following Monday’s 2-0 home win over Aston Villa – Austin twice on target in the Loftus Road success.
Bobby Zamora dropped to the substitutes’ bench for the trip to Stamford Bridge, Junior Hoilett taking his place in a 4-5-1 system.
As expected, Chelsea enjoyed much of the possession in the opening stages, as they did for the majority of the first half, forcing two early corners in swift succession.
Oscar had the home side’s first shot at goal, dragging an effort just wide of the target in the 11th minute.
Moments later, Branislav Ivanovic somehow fired wide from close range following Willian’s right-flank centre.
Good work from Vargas saw QPR fashion an opportunity on the counter attack in the 15th minute.
The Chilean strode into the home half and when he fed Hoilett on the left, Austin saw an effort deflected over from the resultant cross.
Rangers settled as the half wore on, occasionally breaking on the counter. Meanwhile, Chelsea enjoyed the next opportunity of note, Cesc Fabregas seeing an effort deflected wide in the 25th minute.
Table toppers Chelsea opened the scoring seven minutes later in sublime fashion.
Passing play saw the ball eventually worked to Oscar on the right-hand side of the box – and the Brazilian let fly with the outside of his right foot, leaving Rob Green with no chance. The R’s had battled doggedly – but were now behind.
Into the second half, and although the hosts were enjoying their fair share of possession once again, Rangers continued to fight hard.
In the 54th minute, Chelsea broke and when Willian attempted to feed Hazard from the right, the Belgian ace was just unable to get a finishing touch on the stretch.
The Hoops were penned in come the hour mark and Redknapp responded by bringing on Zamora, in place of Hoilett.
Rangers levelled in the 62nd minute. A quick break from a Chelsea attack saw Vargas chip the ball into Austin, who in turn chested intelligently back into the path of the Chilean.
Bearing down on goal, Vargas took one touch to set himself before firing a cross-come-shot on target, which Thibaut Courtois could only palm to the edge of the penalty area. Thereafter, Leroy Fer rather scuffed his first-time volley into the turf, but Austin expertly flicked the ball home from six-yards out.
The R’s masses were sent into delirium – could an unlikely result be on the cards?
Six minutes later – and now buoyed by the equalising goal, QPR almost took the lead – Sandro’s low drive from 20 yards deflected only inches wide.
At the other end, Green pulled off a super save to thwart Oscar from a free-kick.
In the 74th minute, Rangers broke at pace – Yun Suk-Young, Zamora and Austin all combined before the latter scuffed wide.
Chelsea regained the lead following a penalty just a minute later, referee Michael Jones pointing to the spot after Hazard clashed with Vargas in the box.
Hazard coolly slotted home from 12 yards thereafter, sending Green the wrong way.
But QPR continued to scrap. Green pulled off two excellent saves in quick succession to deny Andre Schurrle and John Terry respectively.
However, a second equaliser proved to be beyond them, Chelsea holding out for all three points in SW6.