RANGERS bowed out of the EFL Cup at the third-round stage, exiting the competition despite taking the lead against Premier League Sunderland in W12.
It was a committed display from Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s charges, who struck first when Sandro put QPR in front in the 60th minute.
But Sunderland responded to book their place in round four.
Paddy McNair scored his first two goals in senior football to see David Moyes’ men through, striking in minutes 70 and 80 to complete the comeback in an entertaining spectacle at Loftus Road.
Hasselbaink made nine changes to his team in total following Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at Championship league leaders Huddersfield Town.
Only Steven Caulker, Jordan Cousins and Conor Washington retained their places in the XI.
Niko Hamalainen was handed his senior Rangers debut, while Pawel Wszolek and Idrissa Sylla made their first starts since joining the club in late August.
There was little to note inside the opening stanza.
But Sunderland almost broke the deadlock in the 11th minute, denied only by the reflexes of Rangers goalkeeper Matt Ingram.
Ingram pulled off a stunning, low stop to thwart Duncan Watmore, after Joel Asoro initially instigated a Mackems breakaway.
The R’s enjoyed their first opportunity eight minutes later.
Sylla’s blast was deflected into the path of Nasser El Khayati, whose subsequent shot was blocked by ‘keeper Jordan Pickford. Sunderland’s Jason Denayer then headed over to safety, with Washington waiting to pounce.
At the other end, Lynden Gooch shot narrowly wide in the 23rd minute after he was teed up by Didier Ndong.
A minute later, meanwhile, Rangers’ Sylla also dragged an effort past the post.
Ingram produced another fine save in the 27th minute. Ndong’s right-flank centre was cleared only as far as Jan Kirchhoff on the edge of the box, whose volley saw the QPR custodian fling himself to tip the ball away for a corner.
Chances were now flowing at both ends. On the half-hour mark, Joel Lynch headed just past the upright, following El Khayati’s free-kick delivery.
And Rangers went close again seven minutes before the half-time break, as Wszolek thundered a low effort only inches wide of the target.
In the end, the first half was an entertaining spectacle. All that was lacking was a goal.
Sunderland stepped things up a little after the interval.
After a couple of early corners, Cousins was forced into a goal-line block to deny McNair, whose 47th-minute shot deflected up and looked to be heading in.
Five minutes later, Cousins was again in the thick of the action, but in an attacking sense this time.
The midfielder’s cross from the left was to a tee for Washington who, after evading his marker, headed just past the right-hand post.
The R’s settled thereafter, and the Loftus Road faithful were in good voice as the hour mark approached, sensing that a Premier League scalp may well be on the cards.
Rangers duly roared in front in the 60th minute.
El Khayati’s corner from the right found Lynch at the back post, and when the defender headed the ball back to a waiting Sandro on the edge of the penalty area, the Brazilian brilliantly hooked home his third goal in this season’s EFL Cup competition.
There was quite some noise as the ball struck the back of the net. And R’s fans almost had a second goal to cheer two minutes later, as El Khayati drove straight at Pickford.
Unsurprisingly, the opening goal provoked a reaction from the visitors. Full-back Patrick van Aanholt volleyed just wide in the 65th minute.
Mackems boss Moyes then opted for a triple substitution and, just moments after doing that, his team drew level in the 70th minute.
McNair played a one-two to free himself in the box, before the ex-Manchester United man slid the ball under Ingram and in.
Sunderland were buoyed by their goal. Three minutes after equalising, Ingram was called into action to palm away substitute Lee Cattermole’s attempt.
Hasselbaink made two changes after that, as Seb Polter and Mass Luongo replaced Sylla and Washington respectively.
That couldn’t halt a Sunderland second, though, as the visitors edged in front with 10 minutes remaining.
Ingram pushed away Ndong’s initial effort, before McNair pounced to smash home from 12 yards.
Rangers threw on their last sub in the 84th minute, as Tjaronn Chery replaced the impressive Cousins.
The R’s had given everything in this tie, but could they muster a second goal of their own?
Three minutes were added on at the end, but Sunderland used all of their top-flight experience to see themselves into the fourth round.