TWO moments of magic helped Rangers edge past recently-promoted Milton Keynes Dons, in a typical Sky Bet Championship affair at Loftus Road.
For long periods, this was an uninspiring contest in W12. But QPR did dig in throughout and, after failing to break their visitors down for most of the fixture, three goals in the final 20 minutes decided matters.
First, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas displayed superb technique from a Nedum Onuoha cross to finish past Dons goalkeeper David Martin.
And the lead was doubled when Matt Phillips took control of Daniel Tozser’s excellent, sweeping pass before going on to curl home.
There was even time to add gloss to the scoreline. Substitute Junior Hoilett netted at point-blank range two minutes from time, after a corner eventually swung his way.
Rangers head coach Chris Ramsey made one change to his starting line-up, following Tuesday’s 0-0 home draw against Sheffield Wednesday.
Sandro missed out altogether through injury, so Karl Henry took his place.
This match started in rather unspectacular fashion, although visiting goalkeeper Martin was forced into two different saves in the eighth minute.
Emmanuel-Thomas drove straight at the MK Dons custodian from the edge of the box, before Martin was also equal to Tjaronn Chery’s low blast moments later, after the Dutchman linked well with Massimo Luongo.
After that, Rangers enjoyed their fair share of possession. Grant Hall was unlucky not to do better with a headed effort from a corner kick in the 13th minute.
Six minutes later, R’s captain Onuoha’s snap-shot couldn’t find a way past several visiting bodies in the penalty area.
Home winger Phillips then dragged an effort just inches wide of the post.
Despite QPR enjoying considerable time on the ball, the first half lacked in quality.
MK Dons’ first opportunity arrived on the counter attack in the 32nd minute, though Rob Hall’s low shot from distance flew well wide.
Rangers’ best chance of the half arrived two minutes later. Following a fast-paced move, Chery slid the marauding Paul Konchesky through on goal. He subsequently nipped the ball past ‘keeper Martin in the box, though Antony Kay intervened to clear off the goal-line.
The R’s continued to enjoy a lot of the play early on after the half-time break. In the 49th minute, Clint Hill shot wide while, four minutes later, Grant Hall headed marginally over following Chery’s left-flank corner.
QPR’s first substitution came in the 57th minute. Luongo was brought off, with Leroy Fer sent on to replace him.
The chance of the match yet arrived in the 62nd minute – and it fell to MK Dons.
After some neat play, Simon Church was put through on goal. He then shot low, but R’s custodian Rob Green pulled off an awesome fingertip save to put the ball around the post.
Much like the first half, the second was mostly devoid of any real quality – though it was a moment of fine play which saw Rangers eventually take the lead in the 70th minute.
Onuoha crossed from the right, and Emmanuel-Thomas took two touches to skilfully evade his marker before slotting beyond Martin from 10 yards.
Relief all around a rain-sodden Loftus Road – although the visitors soon almost levelled twice.
Josh Murphy broke away down the left before his darting centre across the six-yard box only just evaded Church, and the same pair combined once more when the latter’s shot was deflected inches wide.
But Rangers all but wrapped up the three points with another moment of class 12 minutes from time.
Tozser’s stunning cross-field pass found Phillips, who sped into the area before cutting past his marker and curling beyond Martin in the visiting goal.
The R’s put the icing on the cake in the 88th minute. MK Dons were unable to clear Tozser’s corner from the right and, when a goalmouth scramble then ensued, substitute Hoilett – brought on for Chery eight minutes earlier – nipped in to finish at close range.
Three-nil to the Super Hoops.