RANGERS recorded a much-needed victory in the battle to avoid relegation, courtesy of a clinical first half attacking display at West Bromwich Albion.
Three goals before half-time helped QPR on their way to the win, with Eduardo Vargas, Charlie Austin and Bobby Zamora all on target at The Hawthorns.
Albion replied 13 minutes after the break through Victor Anichebe to give themselves a glimmer of hope.
But after Youssouf Mulumbu was sent off after an aerial collision with Joey Barton, that settled the nerves – and Barton himself added a fourth goal during injury time.
Rangers were facing an Albion side who had won their last four home fixtures – all to nil. West Brom’s improvement under Tony Pulis since his appointment as head coach in January has been marked, especially at home.
The Baggies have been a much-tougher nut to crack since Pulis’ arrival, and appeared unlikely – before kick-off at least – to display the defensive frailties which saw them squander a two-goal lead to lose 3-2 at Loftus Road just before Christmas. Austin‘s hat-trick did the damage for QPR on that particular afternoon.
This fixture enjoyed a relatively lively start with both goalkeepers having saves to make, albeit routine ones, inside the opening five minutes.
West Brom’s Brown Ideye directed a tame header into the arms of Rob Green in the third minute, while Matt Phillips drove a free-kick straight at Boaz Myhill.
Albion, as expected, enjoyed their fair share of possession early on. Their next chance arrived in the 14th minute and it was Ideye with the effort again, looping another header over following Darren Fletcher’s left-flank cross.
But Rangers raced down the opposite end a minute later to take the lead.
Vargas, restored to the team in place of Junior Hoilett, got himself on the scoresheet.
A ball forward was flicked on by both Zamora and Austin and when Vargas took possession 25 yards from goal, he fired an unstoppable shot into the bottom left-hand corner of the goal to send over 2,000 Hoops fans wild.
Albion responded by going close again. Ideye’s improvised effort, the forward directing the ball towards goal with his shin following Chris Baird’s cross, bobbled inches wide.
Rangers were dealt a blow on the half-hour mark when Vargas was forced off through injury, making way for Niko Kranjcar after going down without challenge.
West Brom piled the pressure on the R’s after going behind. However, QPR dealt the home side a sucker punch eight minutes before half-time from a corner kick.
Phillips crossed the ball over, sub Kranjcar got the flick on – and Austin was at the back post to turn the ball home for his 16th goal of the campaign.
Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better for Rangers, it could.
Unbelievably, Zamora put the visiting R’s three goals to the good with another contender for goal of the season in the 43rd minute.
Phillips sent a measured pass forward and when Zamora beat Joleon Lescott for pace, the striker produced a stunning lob to beat Myhill from the right-hand corner of the box.
The hosts just about shaded the possession count during the opening stanza of the second half.
Craig Gardner missed a good chance to pull one back for Albion in the 55th minute, but he could only shoot low at Green. At the other end, Austin spun and shot straight at Myhill.
But West Brom would reply come the 58th minute. Saido Berahino crossed from the left, before substitute Anichebe got in front of his marker to send a header past Green.
That goal lifted the home crowd and they were on their feet once again when Ideye’s 62nd minute deflected shot forced Green into a reaction save.
Eight minutes later, Green was in action again to catch Berahino’s bullet effort.
Albion were now enjoying most of the play and Rangers brought on Karl Henry for Zamora in the 75th minute in a bid to tighten things up.
Berahino twice went close to adding another goal for the hosts thereafter, while Ideye headed Chris Brunt’s cross just past the upright 10 minutes from time.
Another defensive reinforcement came for the R’s in the 82nd minute. Yun Suk-Young was replaced by Clint Hill.
QPR’s chances of hanging on for the victory were enhanced when West Brom were reduced to 10 men seven minutes from time, after Mulumbu clashed with Barton in an aerial challenge. The Baggies midfielder received a straight red card.
Rangers did indeed hold on for the points – three important ones at that – and there was even time for skipper Barton to add gloss to the scoreline in stoppage time.
Phillips’ clip into the box for Austin caused a scramble, and Barton took advantage to hammer home the fourth.