QPR came back from two goals down to take a share of the spoils in a thrilling derby at Fulham.
Having trailed to goals from Tom Cairney and Lucas Piazon, Rangers levelled just before half-time through Mass Luongo and drew level when Pawel Wszolek hit the back of the net nine minutes before the final whistle.
Having looked to contain the hosts in the first half, Rangers were more-than-worthy of their point for their more aggressive approach in the second half.
QPR made one enforced change from the side that recorded that impressive 3-1 win at Aston Villa on Tuesday night. Luke Freeman came into the starting XI at the expense of Josh Scowen who was admitted to hospital 24 hours ahead of kick-off with suspected appendicitis.
It meant they lined up with Alex Smithies in goal behind a back four of Jake Bidwell, Joel Lynch, Nedum Onuoha and Darnell Furlong.
Pawel Wszolek began on the left flank with Ryan Manning on the right. Mass Luongo partnered Freeman in the centre of the park, while Ebere Eze played just off Matt Smith in attack.
The R’s were looking to continue their impressive form which had seen them pick up seven points from their last three games, while the hosts were hoping to extend their incredible unbeaten run to 16 league games.
Twelve wins from 15 had moved Slavisa Jokanovic’s men within eight points of an automatic promotion spot and they thought they had taken the lead after just four minutes when Tom Cairney’s initial placed shot from 18 yards was parried by Alex Smithies into the path of Ryan Sessegnon who tapped him from close range.
To the relief of the R’s fans behind the goal, the effort was correctly ruled out for offside.
Fulham certainly enjoyed large spells of possession early on, which is something Ian Holllway had anticipated in the lead up to the fixture.
For all their territory of the ball, the hosts failed to create any chance of note beyond the disallowed goal in the opening 20 minutes, with the R’s diligently sticking to their task as they set out to frustrate their in-form hosts.
On 22 minutes Sessegnon had a header at the far post comfortably gathered by Smithies, while five minutes later Wszolek had a good opportunity at the near post when Bidwell’s low delivery found him, but the Pole’s effort was blocked.
But on 32 minutes Fulham took the lead through their captain Cairney when he advanced forward before curling the ball into the bottom corner from 20 yards.
Having limited them to few chances in the opening half an hour, it was a desperately disappointing moment for the R’s. And two minutes later Ryan Fredericks could have doubled the lead but he saw his effort from the right fizz just wide of the far post.
Mitrovic should have done better moments later when Matt Targett played a neat one-two with Stefan Johansen before pulling the ball back for the Fulham forward, but he could only direct his effort wide from close range.
Three minutes before the beak, Wszolek picked up on a poor pass from Targett and forced a fine save from Fulham keeper Marcus Bettinelli who dived full-stretch to his right to preserve the hosts’ lead.
And on the stroke of half-time, Fulham increased that lead to two. Fredericks broke down the right and pulled the ball back into the centre, where Sessegnon took possession and rolled into the path of Lucas Piazon who slammed beyond Smithies from 12 yards.
But before the referee had time to blow for the interval, Rangers went straight down the other end and halved the deficit with a stunning goal from Luongo. Freeman took a free-kick from 35 yards and floated the ball towards the far post where Smith headed towards the penalty spot. Luongo quickly reacted, controlling the ball before thundering beyond Bettinelli.
It was a vital strike and brought the R’s back into the game just when it looked like it would be getting away from them.
After the break, Fulham continued to enjoy sustained periods of possession while the R’s looked to press them higher than they had in the opening 45 minutes.
Eze was having another impressive game for the R’s and on 65 minutes he inadvertently set up Smith when his initial shot was blocked into the path of the former Fulham man, but Smith’s snapshot went over from 18 yards.
Moments later, Smith had a far better chance to net on his old stomping ground when Luongo played the ball brilliantly into his path, but his shot was well saved by Bettinelli.
Rangers then enjoyed a strong period of possession of their own and began to bombard the Fulham box. Smith forced another fine save from Bettinelli, although on this occasion he had drifted into an offside position.
With 20 minutes remaining, Holloway made a double substitution, bringing on Conor Washington and Paul Smyth for Smith and Washington.
Moments later, Jordan Cousins replaced Manning.
On 74 minutes Onuoha released Smyth down the right and the Northern Irishman brilliantly pulled the ball back for the on-rushing |Freeman, but his low effort was fortuitously blocked and fell into t the path of Bettinelli.
Moments later, Bidwell picked out Smyth at the far post but his downward header was comfortably saved as Rangers continued to lay siege to the Fulham goal.
And on 81 minutes the R’s found the equaliser through Wszolek when the Pole brilliantly won the ball off Deni Odoi and raced through on goal. With time to think, he coolly dispatched the ball past Bettinelli from 16 yards to send the R’s fans behind the goal delirious.
Rangers were in the ascendancy and it was the visiting fans making all the noise with five minutes remaining.
A flare-up in stoppage time between Lynch and Mitrovic saw the Fulham striker fortunate not to see red, but it was the red of QPR who left Craven Cottage the happier of the two teams after an excellent week on the road.