QPR squandered a two-goal lead in their opening home game of the new Championship season, as late drama cost Chris Ramsey’s men all three points at Loftus Road.
Goals from Clint Hill and Charlie Austin put Rangers in a strong position to pick up their first win of the league campaign.
But after Sean Morrison pulled a goal back for the visitors in the second half, Scott Malone’s sublime solo effort in stoppage time denied Rangers.
After defeat on the opening day at Charlton Athletic last weekend, R’s boss Ramsey made several changes to his side for the midweek Capital One Cup win at Yeovil Town.
For the visit of the Bluebirds, however, there was just one difference to the side that started at The Valley. Injury to Jamie Mackie (groin) denied the attacker a second home debut with QPR, so Ben Gladwin – who featured against Yeovil on Tuesday – deputised.
Former R’s defender Matt Connolly began at the centre of defence for Cardiff.
Both sides enjoyed their fair share of possession early on but this was a game of few chances during the opening exchanges. The teams were doing a good job of cancelling each other out.
Indeed, there was not a single clear-cut chance of note until the 30th minute, and it came for the visitors.
A high, hanging ball into the box was headed down by Alex Revell into the path of Joe Mason, who blazed handsomely over from 18 yards.
Just two minutes later, QPR’s Rob Green saved well from Anthony Pilkington.
Despite those two Cardiff efforts, it was Rangers who would take the lead in the 33rd minute.
Matt Phillips’ corner from the left was first met by Hill, whose subsequent header bounced into the ground, then up into the net.
That goal buoyed QPR. Three minutes later, Tjaronn Chery’s teasing cross from the left only just evaded both Austin and Phillips.
Phillips himself was also now asking questions with his crossing from the right. But the winger should have done better with an effort three minutes before half-time.
Chery’s lovely disguised pass into the box found Phillips, whose snap-shot sailed well over.
Just before the break, Joe Ralls went close with a cross-come-shot from the right, around 20 yards out. But, luckily for Rangers, that effort crept just past the post.
Gladwin also headed wide for Rangers on the stroke of the interval, after another Phillips assist.
The R’s had to withstand some early Cardiff pressure in the second half.
Ramsey reacted by replacing Chery with Michael Doughty in the 55th minute, in what was a seemingly tactical change.
And Rangers almost doubled their lead moments later – Phillips seeing a deflected drive wonderfully tipped wide by Simon Moore.
But it was 2-0 to QPR from the resultant corner.
Phillips was involved once more, with his corner kick from the right guided home by Austin, via a touch from team-mate Hill.
Cardiff soon responded and after Ralls skewed just wide after the home side failed to clear their lines, the Bluebirds pulled a goal back in the 63rd minute.
Defender Morrison brought the visitors to within a goal of Rangers, when heading home a Peter Whittingham corner.
The Hoops almost restored the two-goal cushion four minutes later.
Substitute Doughty was freed down the right and when he crossed for Austin, the striker’s low shot was cleared off the goal-line by Connolly.
Austin was actually withdrawn a minute later, making way for summer signing Sebastian Polter.
Ex-Cardiff man Jay Emmanuel-Thomas also came on for Rangers in the 75th minute, after replacing Gladwin.
Phillips had the chance to all but settle the match as a contest in the 80th minute, after racing through one-on-one with the goalkeeper. However, after bearing down on goal from an angle, he could only shoot straight at Moore.
The winger also went close with an effort from range in the 84th minute that fizzed just over the crossbar.
Like Phillips, Emmanuel-Thomas also had the opportunity to kill the game in the final minute but, after working an opportunity for himself 10 yards from goal, he struck agonisingly wide.
Unfortunately, the visitors eventually made QPR pay for those two previous misses.
Twenty yards from goal, Malone controlled a cross-field ball superbly well, taking a touch before blasting home on the volley past the despairing dive of Green.