QPR’S hopes of retaining their Premier League status suffered another setback after Everton inflicted a gut-wrenching defeat on Sunday.
Rangers came from behind at Loftus Road as substitute Eduardo Vargas levelled the scores at 1-1, but goals either side from Seamus Coleman and Aaron Lennon snatched victory for the visitors.
Chris Ramsey’s side would rue their luck once again, with the woodwork denying Junior Hoilett and Adel Taarabt in stoppage time on another agonisingly frustrating afternoon in W12.
Ramsey made four changes from defeat at Crystal Palace. Mauricio Isla lined-up on the right side of a four-man defence in place of Darnell Furlong, while Hoilett replaced Shaun Wright-Phillips on the wing.
Bobby Zamora also returned, as did Joey Barton to skipper the R’s following his three-game suspension. Taarabt and Karl Henry made way, both dropping to the bench.
Rangers, knowing victory would cut the gap to 17th-placed Sunderland to a point, made a fast start.
Zamora proved a handful from the off, although it was Everton who came closest to the opener. Leighton Baines’ early corner was met by Leon Osman at the near post, whose half volley flashed just over.
Barton’s free-kick at the other end almost provided Rangers with a similar chance. His sweeping cross was inches away from being converted by Nedum Onuoha.
Despite their bright opening, Rangers fell behind against the run of play on 18 minutes. Arouna Kone, Aaron Lennon and Osman combined to find Coleman in space on the right, who superbly guided his shot from 18 yards inside the far corner off the inside of the post.
Osman was frustrated from the Toffees’ next attack, claiming Barton had blocked his shot in the area with his hands. Referee Jonathan Moss, however, thought otherwise.
Rangers wasted a golden chance to restore parity on the half-hour mark. Zamora looked set to nod home Charlie Austin’s cross, but his glancing header went wide.
The hosts had to wait until the first minute of the second half for their next sight of goal, when the woodwork denied Hoilett an equaliser straight from the re-start. The winger’s curling effort from 20 yards came back off the crossbar, while Austin’s follow-up was flagged for offside.
As Rangers continued to press, Everton looked to take advantage on the counter-attack. Osman found himself clear, but a tremendous recovery challenge from Isla cleared the danger.
Ramsey made his first change on the hour-mark. Hoilett made way, with Vargas introduced to bolster the R’s attack.
And the Chilean was involved soon after. The move eventually saw Zamora tee-up Sandro on the edge of the box, only to see his ferocious shot blocked.
Rangers – and Vargas – would find a way through, though. Phillips’ corner from the right eventually fell to Vargas via Sandro’s mishit effort, who lashed the ball into the roof of the net from close range to bring Loftus Road to its feet.
Sandro was replaced soon after in a straight swap with Henry.
Taking Vargas’ lead, it didn’t take long for the midfielder to make his mark. Henry’s crunching challenge in the centre of the park released Zamora, but the striker sent his sailing over the crossbar.
Likewise Austin, who guided a volley from Zamora’s knock-down off target with 15 minutes remaining.
But, just like in the first half, Rangers would be caught cold at the other end. Coleman’s cross wasn’t sufficiently dealt with, allowing Lennon to bury the loose ball past Rob Green’s dive from six yards.
Ramsey responded by making his third and final change for the closing nine minutes. Taarabt arrived as Zamora was withdrawn.
And Taarabt too so nearly provided an immediate impact. The Moroccan curled a low shot beyond Tim Howard but inches wide of the goalkeeper’s far post.
Five minutes of stoppage time soon followed, during which time the woodwork frustrated the R’s one final time. Taarabt’s dipping effort from the edge of the area beat Howard but found the top of the crossbar, shattering the R’s hopes of rescuing a point in the process.