RANGERS let a one-goal lead slip, as Preston North End came from behind to keep up their chances of reaching the Sky Bet Championship play-offs with this 2-1 win.
Matt Smith stabbed home in the 13th minute to hand QPR the initiative at Loftus Road.
But two goals from former Aston Villa trainee Callum Robinson won it for the promotion-chasing Lilywhites, in what in truth was a scrappy affair throughout.
First, the 23-year-old touched home Darnell Fisher’s low cross shortly before half-time, then Robinson struck again sixteen minutes from the end to spell victory for North End.
R’s boss Ian Holloway made five changes to his team in total after Tuesday 4-2 thumping of Sheffield Wednesday in W12.
Goalkeeper Matt Ingram was given his first league start of the campaign, while there were also places in Rangers’ XI for Ebere Eze, Massimo Luongo, Ryan Manning and Smith.
Alex Smithies, Luke Freeman, Josh Scowen, Paul Smyth and Idrissa Sylla all began from the bench.
The first 10 or so minutes were competitive, even if the game was one of few opportunities.
The first real chance of the contest arrived in the 10th minute. An R’s corner was flicked on towards Smith, whose header looped over the crossbar.
But both Rangers and Smith wouldn’t pass on the next opportunity presented to them – Holloway’s men taking the lead just three minutes later.
Manning’s initial free-kick was cleared back out to the Irishman on the left and, when he crossed again on the volley, Smith got in front of his marker to produce an impressive low finish from eight yards.
QPR almost added a second in the 19th minute. The move both started and finished with the so-far impressive Manning, whose six-yard header forced a fine reaction save from Declan Rudd.
Earlier, the former played a delicious pass out to Bidwell on the left.
Apart from a tame Tom Clarke header that was easily caught by Ingram, that following a Billy Bodin corner kick, Preston didn’t really threaten for much of the opening period.
But the visitors grew stronger as the interval approached.
Alex Neil’s charges threatened an equalising goal six minutes before the break, as Paul Huntington saw his close-range header – following Bodin’s free-kick – cleared off the goal-line.
But Preston would level matters on the stroke of half-time.
Fisher pulled the ball back from the byline on the right, before Callum Robinson touched home from a couple of yards out – that despite Alex Baptiste’s best efforts to intervene on the line.
A little harsh on QPR, perhaps – who had just about been the better team in what was a bit of a scrappy first half in the end.
Into the second half, and it was Rangers who fashioned the first attempt in the 52nd minute. Eze touched the ball back to Manning on 20 yards, who shot straight at Rudd.
That was the only real chance of the closing period up to the hour mark, with Holloway opting for a double R’s substitution in the 62nd minute.
Both Smith and Bright Osayi-Samuel made way, with Sylla and Smyth introduced.
Preston also made two subs of their own at that point, and went close to taking the lead only three minutes later.
It would have been a second goal for Callum Robinson, too, who dragged his edge-of-the-box attempt just wide.
In the 67th minute, meanwhile, the Preston forward also had a goal chalked off for offside.
Admittedly, the second half was just as untidy as the first, with Freeman thrown on for Jordan Cousins in the 73rd minute. Could Rangers’ most-creative player this season produce another match-winning assist?
Instead, it became apparent that the R’s would have to come from behind only a minute later, as North End edged in front.
Sub Paul Gallagher’s left-wing free-kick was headed towards goal by Alan Browne, before Callum Robinson stole in at close range to touch the ball over the line and finally register his second.
Two-one was so nearly 3-1 come the 79th minute, as Tom Barkhuizen wrapped his left foot around a 20-yard effort that flew only inches wide.
No further opportunities arrived up until the 90th minute, with some six minutes subsequently added on at the death.
Sadly for Rangers, there also wasn’t much to report on during stoppage time. Preston’s Barkhuizen forced a smart stop from Ingram before the full-time whistle was sounded.