TWO stoppage-time strikes rescued the unlikeliest of points for Rangers, who came back from the dead to somehow record a 2-2 west London derby draw against Brentford.
A live Sky Sports clash full of drama, two goals after the half-time break from the Bees’ Lasse Vibe looked to have given the visitors a deserved victory for their attacking play.
But QPR – who had as many strong penalty appeals waved away after the interval – had other ideas for a grandstand W12 finish.
First sub Matt Smith headed in off the underside of the crossbar, before Luke Freeman eventually touched home following a free-kick from deep.
Agony for Brentford – ecstasy for the R’s.
Hoops boss Ian Holloway made four changes to the QPR team beaten 2-0 at Derby County last time out.
Returning from injury and illness respectively, in came Jordan Cousins and Massimo Luongo, while there were also starts for Idrissa Sylla and Conor Washington.
Joel Lynch missed out altogether owing to the ankle injury he picked up in the defeat at Pride Park last Tuesday, as did Yeni Ngbakoto.
David Wheeler and Pawel Wszolek, also in the starting XI at Derby, were among the home substitutes.
Rangers – in a 4-4-2 formation – lined up as: Alex Smithies; Cousins, Alex Baptiste, Jack Robinson, Jake Bidwell; Freeman, Josh Scowen, Luongo (captain), Jamie Mackie; Washington, Sylla.
QPR started brightly enough, with Brentford struggling to get out of their own half inside the first five minutes.
Dean Smith’s charges were better after that, but it was an opening where chances were virtually non-existent.
The Bees fashioned the first effort of note in the 13th minute, with only a stunning save from Smithies keeping the visitors out.
Sergi Canos played a neat one-two with Vibe before letting fly from 20 yards. And Rangers shot-stopper Smithies reacted magnificently thereafter, diving full-length to tip the ball around his left-hand post.
Four minutes later, Rangers then went close with the best opportunity of the contest yet.
In possession, Sylla peeled off the right before playing the ball across the box for Mackie, who cut in and subsequently fired over from 14 yards.
This had fast become an open if even encounter and, up the other end, it was from a set-piece that Brentford next went close. Yoann Barbet thundered a 25-yard free-kick just over in the 28th minute.
Three minutes later, meanwhile, QPR’s Freeman latched onto Sylla’s ball into the penalty area – only for John Egan to slide in and deny the playmaker as he wound up to shoot.
With half-time beginning to approach, all this game lacked was a goal and, in the 38th minute, Washington volleyed straight at Bees ‘keeper Dan Bentley, following Sylla’s knockdown.
And Brentford again threatened with the last real opportunity of an entertaining opening period. Canos burst down the right before fizzing an effort only inches past the foot of the far post from 18 yards.
When the second half got underway, it took Rangers less than two minutes to strike the face of the crossbar.
Freeman’s left-flank corner was eventually headed on by Scowen and then Sylla, before the ball looped up and bounced back off the woodwork.
The closing half began in an equally-open fashion and, in the 50th minute, Brentford sub and top scorer Ollie Watkins fired at the side-netting when presented with a good opportunity.
In truth, the Bees had looked a threat in attack for much of this game – and it was following some fine forward play that the visitors finally broke the deadlock in the 52nd minute.
Nico Yennaris clipped a ball into the box for Vibe who, with his back to goal, spun and shot past Smithies from 12 yards.
Advantage Brentford – and the Bees so nearly doubled their lead just two minutes later.
Yennaris raced onto Barbet’s ball over the top but, albeit on the stretch, could only stab over from 16 yards.
Holloway reacted by soon making a first Rangers change.
On came Smith, at the expense of Sylla, and that sub did give the R’s some life.
First Scowen curled over from 20 yards, before QPR had two strong penalty appeals turned down by referee Steve Martin – arguably the strongest coming when Freeman’s shot struck the hand of Egan.
Meanwhile, in the 67th minute, Mackie headed wide from Washington’s left-wing centre, before Smithies twice saved from goalscorer Vibe in what had been an action-packed second half.
Impact sub Smith was next to come close to a home equaliser, in the 71st minute, clipping the right-hand post after meeting Freeman’s corner with his head for the R’s.
Then Rangers used their last two substitutes, as Kazenga LuaLua and Wszolek replaced Mackie and Cousins.
With little more than 15 minutes of normal time left to play, this contest really was now finely poised.
You felt a second Brentford goal would surely put this game out of Rangers’ reach.
And the visitors duly struck the seemingly-killer blow with nine minutes to go.
Sub Romaine Sawyers and Kamo Mokotjo linked well and, when the former got away down the right, he centred for Vibe to slide home low past Smithies.
The R’s looked down and out but, in the third minute of four added on at the end, Holloway’s men gave themselves a glimmer of hope.
Freeman’s in-swinging cross from the right was touched on by Bidwell, before Smith headed in off the underside of the bar.
Was there time to complete the most-incredible comeback?
Unbelievably, yes there was.
Freeman came up trumps in the final minute of injury time, stabbing in when Rangers threw bodies forward for a free-kick from deep.