QPR's Elite Development Squad let a one-goal lead slip late on as Brighton & Hove Albion snatched a 3-1 win at Harlington on Tuesday.
Substitute Mo Shariff’s 77th-minute opener looked destined to put the R’s on course for maximum points in a game they dominated for long periods.
But three goals in the space of five dramatic minutes stunned Rangers, handing the visitors victory with an unlikely late twist.
Marc Bircham’s troops began brightly and carved out the first chance within six minutes. Sam Magri’s cross from the right found Tom Hitchcock, who missed the target as his effort from outside the box flew over.
Angelo Balanta was next to try his luck for the hosts but his 30-yard piledriver was easily gathered by Brighton goalkeeper Grant Smith.
The Seagulls responded to the early pressure by creating a chance of their own on 19 minutes. Torbjorn Agdestein burst down the left flank before flashing a drive across the face of Aaron Lennox’s goal.
At the other end, Rangers continued to look the most likely to find the breakthrough. Hogan Ephraim’s curling effort halfway through the first period deflected narrowly wide before Hitchock forced Smith into a smart save from 12 yards.
The R’s forced one final chance five minutes before the break as Balanta came within inches of breaking the deadlock. The striker picked his spot from 16 yards out but curled his left-footed effort agonisingly wide of the far post as the half ended goalless.
Rangers were on the backfoot soon after the re-start, though. The visitors broke the offside trap before Max Ehmer came to the R’s rescue, blocking Shamir Goodwin’s low strike.
The hosts soon regained control of possession and twice tried their luck from distance to no avail. Balanta blazed over from 25 yards before Ephraim was denied from similar range as Smith dived low to his left to keep out the wideman’s blistering strike on the hour mark.
Bircham made his first change of the afternoon soon after as Balanta was withdrawn for Mo Shariff, who almost made an instant impact off the bench. The substitute danced his way into the Brighton area on 70 minutes but lacked the finishing touch, dragging his shot harmlessly wide.
Shariff didn’t make the same mistake seven minutes later, though, as the R’s finally made their dominance count. The striker collected the ball on the edge of the area before driving a low shot through a host of Brighton bodies to find the bottom corner.
The lead was shortlived, however, as the visitors punished a lapse of concentration in the R’s backline. Ehmer was disposessed by Solly March, who took full advantage by beating Lennox at his near post to draw Albion level.
Worse was to follow for Rangers as two goals in as many minutes quashed any hopes of a reply. George Barker unleashed a fierce volley into the top corner and, as Rangers pushed for an equaliser, they were undone again on the break as Brennan Dickenson poked home a decisive third to complete the turnaround.
QPR: Lennox, Magri, Sendles-White, Champion, Parmenter, Ehmer, Sutherland, Hitchcock, Ephraim (Fitzpatrick 74), Balanta (Shariff 66), Hewitt.