RANGERS’ Barclays Premier League survival hopes were dealt a huge blow following a comprehensive Crystal Palace victory at Selhurst Park.
A disastrous first half put pay to QPR’s chances in south London, with the Eagles three goals to the good before half-time.
Wilfried Zaha fired Palace in front in the 21st minute – before further strikes from James McArthur and Joel Ward prior to the break put the home side into an unassailable lead.
Matt Phillips pulled a goal back for Rangers towards the death courtesy of a stunning strike from range – but it was scant consolation.
R’s boss Chris Ramsey made three changes to his side following last weekend’s 2-1 home defeat to Tottenham Hotspur.
Rio Ferdinand (illness), Mauricio Isla and Bobby Zamora all came out of QPR’s starting XI, with only the latter making the bench.
So in came Darnell Furlong, Shaun Wright-Phillips – making his first league start of the season – and Adel Taarabt.
Rangers settled relatively well in an opening period of limited opportunities.
Indeed, the first chance of the contest didn’t arrive until the 19th minute. Palace’s Yannick Bolasie weaved his way past Furlong before feeding McArthur in the box, who was denied by a fantastic sliding intervention from Sandro.
Scott Dann then glanced a free header wide from the resultant corner, before doing so again shortly after following Jason Puncheon’s deep set-piece from the right.
Palace hit the front in the 22nd minute. Glenn Murray’s defence-splitting pass put Bolasie in the clear down the left, who crossed for Zaha to slide home from close range.
Zaha needed treatment after his momentum saw him crash into a post – but the winger was soon on his feet again, to the delight of the home crowd.
From nowhere, the home side were now firmly on top and threatened further through Zaha and former R Damien Delaney, who both sent shots just wide.
QPR’s first attempt came in the 37th minute. A tidy exchange of passes ended with Taarabt finding space on 30 yards, but his effort sailed handsomely over Julian Speroni’s bar.
Palace’s pace in wide areas caused Rangers problems for much of the first half. Zaha and Bolasie were the protagonists – and it was the latter on hand with another assist in the 41st minute.
Bolasie crossed from the left, McArthur slid home six yards from goal. It was almost a carbon copy of the Eagles’ first strike.
Palace effectively put the game out of Rangers’ reach with a third goal just a minute later. Full-back Ward cut in from the right, and his left-foot effort deflected in past the despairing dive of Rob Green.
The R’s made one substitution at the break. Once-Eagles defender Clint Hill replaced Furlong.
The home side continued on the offensive in the second half, continuing from where they left off in the opening period. That being said, chances were at a premium for much of the closing 45 minutes.
Palace goalkeeper Speroni made the first stop of the second half in the 72nd minute, saving comfortably following Charlie Austin’s header.
Soon after, at the other end, Steven Caulker blocked a Glenn Murray volley with his chest. Austin then blasted straight at Speroni in the 75th minute.
A minute later, Green dived low to collect a Dwight Gayle free-kick.
The game hit a real lull as the clock ticked down towards time. Palace were happy to let Rangers enjoy possession, comforted by their three-goal cushion.
QPR’s Phillips pulled one back for the visitors with the goal of the game in the 83rd minute.
In space, the midfielder let fly from fully 40 yards – and the ball flew into the top left-hand corner.
Rangers head coach Ramsey responded by bringing on two more fresh faces. Reece Grego-Cox and Niko Kranjcar replaced Wright-Phillips and Sandro respectively.
Phillips then almost scored another long-range stunner, thwarted by a fantastic save from Speroni.
Substitute Kranjcar then blazed high and wide from 25 yards.
Five minutes of added time were signalled at the end but Rangers were unable to provide any further consolation, leaving them to rue a first half to forget at Selhurst Park.