QPR will wonder how they managed to be on the receiving end of a 3-0 defeat to Cardiff despite dominating much of this game.
In the end, the R’s paid the price for two set-piece goals in the first half from Sean Morrison and Marlon Pack, and a Callum Paterson volley after the interval.
Rangers hit the post twice and forced several saves from Smithies on what proved to be a frustrating evening in south Wales.
Mark Warburton made four changes from the side that lost 2-0 to West Brom at the weekend with Liam Kelly, Angel Rangel, Josh Scowen and Bright Osayi-Samuel coming in for Joe Lumley, Todd Kane, Yoann Barbet and Nahki Wells.
Barbet served a one-game suspension for his red card against the Baggies while Lumley, Kane and Wells were on the bench.
The R’s lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Kelly, making his league bow, playing behind a back four (from left to right) of Ryan Manning, Geoff Cameron, Toni Leistner and Rangel.
Dominic Ball and Scowen were the holding midfielders behind Ebere Eze, Ilias Chair and Osayi-Samuel, while Hugill led the line in attack.
After their four-game winning run came to an end at the weekend, the visitors were hoping to get back on track but faced a Cardiff side in form. Neil Warnock’s men were unbeaten in six games coming into this fixture, while they had collected ten points from a possible 12 on home soil.
Rangers started the game on the front foot and could have taken the lead in the fifth minute when Osayi-Samuel got the better of Joe Bennett but his fierce drive was well saved by former QPR stopper Alex Smithies.
But on 11 minutes the hosts took the lead with their first chance of the game when Sean Morrison headed home from close range.
Lee Tomlin’s free-kick from the left was met at the far post by Aden Flint and Morrison nodded the ball beyond Kelly.
QPR reacted well to the early setback, enjoying the lion’s share of possession and on 20 minutes Hugill came close to levelling matters at the far post but Manning’s cross from the left dropped agonisingly behind him.
Ball was next to go close when Scowen picked him out in space on the edge of the box but his effort flew over the bar.
Tomlin pulled an effort wide of Kelly’s far post on the half-hour mark as the hosts looked to double their lead but on 36 minutes Eze came within inches of levelling the game with a stunning effort.
The R’s No.10 worked space on the edge of the area before curling the ball towards the top corner. With Smithies beaten, the stadium waited for the net to rustle but the ball cannoned back off the post.
On 42 minutes it was Chair’s turn to go close after he dispossessed Morrison but his low drive from 16 yards was gathered by Smithies at the second attempt.
But on the stroke of half-time the hosts doubled their lead from another set-piece. Leandro Bacuna’s low corner picked out Gavin White and he drilled the ball towards the far post where Pack had the easiest of finishes, tapping the ball home from a yard out.
It was an incredibly harsh ending to the first half for QPR who had enjoyed more than 70% of possession but had failed to take their chances when they came.
After the break, Rangel was put through by Eze on 47 minutes but the ball got caught under his feet as he shaped to shoot while moments later Ball’s low drive deflected wide as QPR looked to get themselves back into this game.
On the hour, it was Manning’s turn to smash the ball off the upright after Eze picked him out. It looked like the Irishman’s first-time effort had beaten Smithies at the near stick, but the ball came back off the post and Scowen could only put the rebound wide.
Warburton then introduced Wells to the action at the expense of Ball as he looked to step up the attack on the Cardiff goal, while Kane was brought on for Rangel.
But it just wasn’t going to be QPR’s day when substitute Callum Paterson hit Bacuna’s cross into the ground and the ball bounced into the top corner of the net from 20 yards.
On 76 minutes Kane had a low effort saved by Smithies from 12 yards when Chair let the ball roll through to the on-rushing full-back.
With ten minutes remaining, Marc Pugh was brought on for Chair and he was quickly introduced to the action but saw his close-range effort blocked after a slick Rangers move.
The hosts successfully saw the game out to make it seven games unbeaten.
QPR, meanwhile, will be able to take plenty of positives from their performance but will be determined to get back on track after two defeats when they host Blackburn on Saturday.