YOANN Barbet was the unlikely match-winner as QPR beat Blackburn Rovers 1-0 in West London.
The centre-back netted only the second goal of his R’s career with a close-range effort on 54 minutes to make it back-to-back wins for Mark Warburton’s men.
While Rangers have been excellent on the road in recent weeks – picking up 12 points from their last six away fixtures – their home form hasn’t been as impressive.
But their display and performance against a Blackburn side on the edge of the top-six was certainly a step in the right direction, with the win taking them five points clear of the relegation zone and into 16th spot in the Champonship.
Mark Warburton made one change from the side that impressively beat Watford on Monday night, with Lyndon Dykes coming in for Macauley Bonne.
Dykes missed the game at Vicarage Road as he was self-isolating after a family member tested positive for COVID-19.
It meant Seny Dieng continued in goal behind a back three of Rob Dickie, Geoff Cameron and Yoann Barbet, while Todd Kane and Lee Wallace operated on the right and left flanks respectively.
In the middle of the park Dom Ball partnered Stefen Johansen, who was making his home debut following his loan arrival from Fulham.
Ilias Chair sat in the No.10 role behind Charlie Austin and Dykes.
It was a feisty opening with Austin and Jacob Davenport both going in the book for separate challenges, but Rangers started the brighter of the two sides and had a great chance to take the lead on seven minutes.
Dykes’ flick on at the near post fell to Chair, but his shot was blocked before Kane put the rebound just wide from ten yards.
The R’s were looking to build on that victory at the promotion-chasing Hornets and were playing with confidence against a Rovers side who went into this match just outside the play-off places.
Tony Mowbray’s men were also in good form, having won their last two games against Middlesbrough and Luton.
They had their first sighter of goal on 20 minutes when Davenport tried his luck from distance. The midfielder connected well but his effort flew over Dieng’s crossbar and into the Loft.
The R’s stopper may not have been needed for that shot, but he used every bit of his 6’4” frame to pull off a stunning save moments later to stop Adam Armstrong’s 20-yard freekick from arrowing into the top corner.
It was a superb piece of goalkeeping from the in-form 26-year-old.
At the other end of the pitch, Chair found space to run into on the left and he advanced to the edge of the Rovers box before seeing his low cross/shot cleared off the line by the retreating Jarrad Branthwaite.
The dangerous Armstrong struck the post from an acute angle just before the half-hour mark as he went in search of his 19th goal of what has already been a memorable season for him.
On 33 minutes Armstrong again found space down the left and he pulled the ball back perfectly for Harvey Elliott, but the 17-year-old fired over from 12 yards to the relief of the R’s.
In an open game, Barbet tried his luck from distance while Armstrong pulled his shot narrowly wide of the upright as the tussle for supremacy in this fixture continued.
Rangers finished the half strongly in what was an evenly-contested opening 45 minutes of action at Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium.
After the restart, Austin came close to giving Rangers the lead when Chair’s cross from the right was put into his path by Dykes, but the man on loan from West Brom saw his drive blocked and cleared.
But Rangers didn’t have to wait long to finally break the deadlock, and it came through defender Barbet.
Up for a freekick which had been won by Austin, the Frenchman initially set the ball into Cameron’s path but the skipper’s effort pinballed to the feet of Barbet who made no mistake from close range.
Blackburn responded well to going a goal down but the meaner Rangers rearguard was once again on show as the players threw their bodies on the line to protect the advantage.
Lewis Holtby forced a fine save from Dieng but the ball fell invitingly for Armstrong who looked set to level for the visitors but he was denied by a stunning Dickie block.
On 72 minutes Armstrong got down the left and played a low ball into the box which Dieng could only parry, but this time it was Wallace who was there to block the follow-up.
As the game entered the final 15 minutes, Warburton made a double change, replacing Austin and the tireless Johansen with Bonne and Faysal Bettache.
Dykes landed heavily following an aerial challenge with Taylor Harwood-Bellis and after several minutes of treatment on the pitch was replaced by Albert Adomah.
Adomah, the match-winner at Watford, joined Bonne in attack for the closing stages, and with Blackburn pressing forward, there was certainly space for the R’s to exploit.
Rangers’ defensive resoluteness enabled them to comfortably see out the final minutes and record the all-important three points, making it four wins from their last five games.