SECOND-HALF strikes from Joel Lynch and Matt Smith did the job for Rangers, with a deserved victory over ten-man Bolton Wanderers in W12 arguably more comfortable than the 2-0 scoreline suggests.
Visiting shot-stopper Ben Alnwick was largely in inspired form throughout, thwarting the dominant R’s on numerous occasions.
But even he couldn’t prevent the hosts from amassing three more important points once Mark Little was shown a 54th-minute red card for his challenge on Massimo Luongo.
First Lynch touched home in the 72nd minute following Smith’s header back across goal, before the latter got himself on the scoresheet by nodding in substitute Paul Smyth’s right-wing centre in stoppage time.
Aussie ace Luongo returned from injury to be included in Rangers’ starting XI for the visit of Bolton, as Ian Holloway made two changes to his side in total following last weekend’s narrow defeat at Championship table-toppers Wolves.
After impressing from the bench at Molineux, striker Smith was also named among the home starters – but there was no place in QPR’s 18-man squad for both Jordan Cousins and James Perch, with injury ruling the duo out.
Rangers – in a 3-5-2 formation – lined up as: Alex Smithies; Nedum Onuoha (captain), Jack Robinson, Lynch; Pawel Wszolek, Josh Scowen, Luongo, Luke Freeman, Jake Bidwell; Conor Washington, Smith.
The opening stanza made for a relatively-even affair, with both goalkeepers worked during the first quarter-hour.
The R’s were first to go close, in the sixth minute, following a home corner. Robinson’s blast shot through a crowd of bodies in the box, before Alnwick produced a smart catch.
Three minutes later, the Bolton custodian’s opposite number pulled off an even-better stop – Smithies flying to his right to tip away Derik Osede’s header, after the latter met a Josh Vela corner kick.
At the other end, Alnwick was kept busy – keeping out Freeman’s 11th-minute attempt before also blocking Luongo’s cross-shot with his legs two minutes later.
Rangers were now beginning to up the ante and, in the 20th minute, the visiting ‘keeper pulled off arguably his best save yet to keep out Smith, who nodded Bidwell’s sweeping left-flank centre towards goal.
Meanwhile, Smith’s 23rd-minute header – again following a Bidwell cross – forced a routine take from Alnwick, before the former headed onto the roof of the net from Robinson’s long throw.
As the interval approached, and even though opportunities dried up a little, Rangers had relative control.
Seven minutes before the break, Bidwell’s header – from an inswinging Freeman free-kick – darted into the arms of Alnwick.
And on the stroke of half-time, Smith headed only marginally over from Bidwell’s own set-piece.
Into the second half – and visitors Bolton went mightily close to edging in front three minutes into the closing period.
David Wheater rose to meet Sammy Ameobi’s left-wing free-kick before heading towards the bottom right-hand corner. But Smithies reacted to expertly push the ball wide.
Rangers regained momentum after that – and were given a huge boost when Wanderers were subsequently reduced to 10 men.
Referee Scott Duncan wasted little time in issuing a straight red card in the 54th minute, following full-back Little’s lunge on Luongo.
A big blow for Bolton – but they so nearly led when loanee Tyler Walker broke the offside trap to fizz an effort just inches past the upright, on the angle from 12 yards.
A first R’s change – and an attacking one at that – followed, as Bidwell made way for Smyth on 64 minutes.
And just two minutes later, Freeman’s 16-yard rocket was tipped over by Alnwick.
However, Rangers continued to pile on the pressure and finally broke the deadlock in the 72nd minute.
Freeman’s hanging free-kick from the left was headed back across goal by Smith at the far post, before Lynch had the simple task of nodding home from all of a yard out.
Lift-off at Loftus Road – and Lynch so nearly added another in the 79th minute. From the right, skipper Onuoha hooked the ball across goal, but his defensive partner couldn’t quite turn it in at the opposite post.
As Rangers continued in their search for a second, Ebere Eze replaced Washington eight minutes before the end of normal time.
With the clock ticking down, Wszolek blasted over in the 88th minute, after Freeman’s corner broke to the Poland international inside the box.
But QPR would rubber-stamp the win during three minutes of time added on at the death.
Sub Smyth found space down the right and crossed towards the penalty spot, before team-mate Smith got in front of his marker to head beyond Alnwick.
Two-nil to the Super Hoops.