THIRTEEN – unlucky for some, but not QPR, who halted their away-day blues this evening (Tuesday) with a 2-0 Barclays Premier League win at Sunderland.
After 12 defeats on the road in as many attempts in all competitions this season, goals from Leroy Fer and Bobby Zamora helped secure victory at the Stadium of Light.
Both well-taken goals came before half-time, as R’s fans were finally rewarded for their travelling efforts this term.
Rangers made six changes for the trip to the North East, following Saturday’s late defeat to Southampton in W12.
In came Mauricio Isla, Rio Ferdinand, Yun Suk-Young, Karl Henry, Niko Kranjcar and Zamora, as the R’s lined up in a 4-4-1-1 formation.
The contest started slowly, as both teams attempted to feel their way into this important relegation clash.
The first save was made by Sunderland goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon in the 12th minute, who collected a Fer shot comfortably.
The home side threatened soon after, but full-back Patrick van Aanholt could only blast over with a volley.
QPR probably just about shaded possession early on and took the lead in the 17th minute.
Matt Phillips received the ball and when his right-flank cross was met by Fer, the Dutchman headed beyond the ‘keeper to edge Rangers in front.
Phillips almost turned from provider to scorer in the 27th minute, but could only head wide – albeit on the stretch – from an Isla centre.
Two minutes later, Phillips and Fer combined again – and the R’s should have doubled their advantage.
The former turned on a sixpence down the right to leave two men trailing in his wake before squaring to Fer, whose low shot cannoned back off the foot of the post.
At the other end, Jermain Defoe almost levelled when he was picked out by Jordi Gomez from the left, but the Black Cats’ recent signing could only fire over from close range.
In the 35th minute, Rob Green pulled off what can only be described as a wonder save to thwart Connor Wickham, tipping the forward’s header onto the crossbar before scooping the ball off the goal-line.
Rangers took advantage of that let-off by doubling their lead on the stroke of half-time.
Phillips played architect once more, another right-wing cross this time finding Zamora who finished wonderfully on the half-volley.
Naturally, the hosts enjoyed more possession at the beginning of the second half, as they went in search of a route back into the game.
Phillips made way for QPR in the 52nd minute, Shaun Wright-Phillips coming on as his replacement.
Chances were few and far between early on in the closing period, with a low Ricardo Alvarez shot that was easily claimed by Green the only real notable attempt.
But Defoe would really test Green come the 66th minute. Adam Johnson crossed from the left, before the striker’s effort was smartly blocked away.
The goalkeeper’s heroics continued four minutes later. Alvarez shot again – and Green was equal to another effort, tipping a low drive from range away for a corner.
Rangers were having to defend stoutly as the half wore on and, with 10 minutes left to play, the pressure on the visiting back line was high.
Sunderland had a series of penalty appeals waived away in the 83rd minute, with referee Martin Atkinson having none of such claims.
R’s academy product Michael Doughty was introduced two minutes later, at the expense of Isla, while Kranjcar shot at the Mackems' goalkeeper in the 88th minute.
Five minutes of added time went up on the board but that couldn’t stop QPR from earning a much-craved away win, as the R’s climbed out of the bottom three in clinching all three points.