RANGERS fell to their third straight defeat in all competitions, beaten by the odd goal against promotion-chasing Bristol City at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium.
Visitors City were the better team before half-time and were duly rewarded courtesy of Famara Diedhiou in the 16th minute, who headed powerfully past Liam Kelly at the Loft End.
QPR showed improvement in the second period but couldn’t ultimately find a way past a stubborn Robins backline, who strengthened their position in the top six with this victory.
Following defeat at Blackburn Rovers in midweek, R’s boss Mark Warburton made one enforced change to his starting XI for the visit of in-form Bristol City – who came into this fixture on the back of three consecutive league wins.
A 10th yellow card of the season for Geoff Cameron at Ewood Park earned the midfielder a two-match suspension. So Dom Ball deputised.
In a 4-2-3-1 formation, Rangers lined up as: Kelly; Todd Kane, Grant Hall (captain), Conor Masterson, Lee Wallace; Ball, Luke Amos; Bright Osayi-Samuel, Ilias Chair, Ebere Eze; Jordan Hugill.
Prior to this contest, Hoops top scorer Nahki Wells - who was this week recalled from his loan spell in W12 by parent club Burnley - incidentally moved to visitors City on the eve of the January transfer window closing.
Wells was subsequently named among the City substitutes, just two days after that switch to Ashton Gate.
The opening exchanges made for a relatively open encounter.
Lee Johnson’s visitors fashioned the first notable effort of the contest on nine minutes. City’s Diedhiou warmed the hands of Kelly, who produced a smart stop to push the former’s driven low box attempt away to safety.
The Rangers goalkeeper couldn’t keep out the frontman’s next effort, though, with the Robins edging in front on 16 minutes.
The home side surrendered possession on the halfway line and, when Jack Hunt subsequently drove forward before clipping over a cross from the right, Diedhiou’s emphatic header flew past the outstretched arm of Kelly and in.
Though both teams looked to get forward at each given opportunity, chances didn’t exactly flow in Rangers’ case – who struggled to break their visitors down.
City posed the greater attacking threat. In the 23rd minute, full-back Jay Dasilva’s deflected shot dropped just wide of the target.
Then eight minutes later, goalscorer Diedhiou powered over on the half-volley from the edge of QPR’s box.
Rangers’ first effort at goal didn’t arrive until the 40th minute. Following a home corner, Chair’s attempt crashed back off Masterson in the penalty area, before the former’s hanging centre was glanced wide by the head of Hall.
Ultimately, the R’s couldn’t respond before half-time, but did go close again when Osayi-Samuel slipped in Hugill to fire marginally past the upright from 16 yards.
Into the second half, and it was Rangers who produced the first attempt, in the 48th minute. Eze’s hopeful distance effort skipped past the foot of the left-hand post.
Six minutes later, the hosts again went close from a set-piece, as Eze’s right-wing free-kick was headed only inches wide of the near post by Masterson.
Rangers already looked more of a threat than they did for much of the opening period.
In the 61st minute, and with the R’s pushing harder for an equaliser, Hugill’s header – following Eze’s left-flank corner – was blocked on the goal-line.
QPR made a first change soon after, with Marc Pugh replacing Amos. Former R’s striker Wells was also introduced in a double visiting substitution.
Wells should have doubled City’s advantage on his return to W12. In the 68th minute, Han-Noah Massengo picked him out with a clipped ball over the top of Rangers’ defence, but the Bermudan international - with his back to goal - could only nod over.
A minute later, Diedhiou’s effort on the turn was tipped around the post by Kelly.
In the 74th minute, Diedhiou wriggled his way clear in the box again before shooting low at the Hoops ‘keeper.
At the other end, two minutes later, Osayi-Samuel also did well to escape Dasilva before turning and firing over from 18 yards.
As the clock ticked down, the R’s threw on Jack Clarke for Chair in the 81st minute and began to lay siege to the visiting goal.
Hugill should have done better with his 82nd-minute header, though couldn’t connect properly with Eze’s centre from the right.
A final QPR sub arrived in the 88th minute, as Mide Shodipo replaced Ball.
Five additional minutes were subsequently signalled.
Rangers continued to throw bodies forward. In the fourth minute of stoppage time, Clarke’s dangerous cross was parried by Robins shot-stopper Daniel Bentley, before Shodipo fired the rebound wide.
Unfortunately, the R’s couldn’t ultimately level matters, with the visitors surviving one final goalmouth scramble to register a fourth straight win.