TWO goals in four second-half minutes put pay to Rangers’ chances in the west London derby – Mark Warburton’s men falling to a 4-1 defeat at Craven Cottage in the end.
Hosts Fulham were dominant in the first half and deservedly led at the break thanks to Aleksandar Mitrovic’s 10th-minute effort.
Substitute Lyndon Dykes gave the R’s firm belief when he expertly levelled matters just 10 minutes after his half-time introduction.
But it would be Fulham’s day – Mitrovic heading home his second goal on 67 minutes, before sub Bobby De Cordova-Reid got in on the scoring act just four minutes later.
Antonee Robinson added insult to injury when his hopeful effort deflected home in second-half stoppage time.
In terms of team news, usual captain Stefan Johansen skippered the R’s on his return to Fulham – the club he left to join QPR permanently in the summer.
Jordy de Wijs and Sam McCallum also both returned from injury to start for Rangers – who lined up as: Seny Dieng; Moses Odubajo, Rob Dickie, de Wijs, Yoann Barbet, McCallum; Dom Ball, Johansen; Ilias Chair, Chris Willock; Charlie Austin.
Given their exertions with their respective nations over the international break, both Dykes and Andre Gray began from the bench.
Fifth (Fulham) faced sixth (QPR) at the Cottage, with the two teams coming into this contest on the back of very different results – albeit before the break.
Rangers edged a five-goal thriller with Preston North End in W12 but for Fulham, they were smarting from a heavy defeat to Coventry City last time out.
The home side enjoyed a fair amount of possession in the opening exchanges and duly edged in front on 10 minutes.
Neeskens Kebano and Denis Odoi exchanged passes down the right and, when the latter swung over a cross for Mitrovic, the Serbian international controlled the ball with his chest before lashing the ball into the bottom left-hand corner of the net.
Hardly the perfect start for Rangers.
Fulham began with real energy the R’s were fortunate to be only one goal down following a subsequent flurry of Mitrovic chances.
In the 18th minute, only Dickie’s last-minute intervention kept out the home striker’s 14-yard blast while, from the resultant corner, Dieng fashioned a fine double stop to keep out two further Mitrovic attempts.
The hosts had been dominant but opportunities dried up somewhat after that.
Rangers only really started to impose themselves in the closing stages of the first half, and so nearly levelled matters five minutes from the interval.
Willock made the most of a miscued Odubajo centre and, when he let fly from inside the box, the attacker’s fierce drive crashed off the right-hand post before darting to safety.
At the other end, Mitrovic again threatened only a minute later – with more last-gasp heroics keeping the R’s within a goal of their hosts for the break.
Given Fulham’s first-half dominance, Rangers boss Warburton made a half-time change in an attempt to turn the tide.
Dykes joined Austin in attack, replacing Ball.
It proved to be an inspired substitution.
Less than 10 minutes after his introduction, Dykes got himself on the scoresheet to level things up.
Willock’s defence-splitting pass put the Scotland international in the clear and, after rounding Marek Rodak, Dykes struck home with his left foot – despite the ever-narrowing angle.
Suddenly, Rangers were far from spectators and come the hour mark, this was a thoroughly entertaining spectacle.
However, just as the R’s were beginning to get a foothold, Fulham regained their lead.
Mitrovic, unsurprisingly, was the man who made it 2-1 – manipulating his way past de Wijs, following Jean Michael Seri’s cross – to head the ball home via the foot of the right-hand post.
A blow for the R’s and, unfortunately, the home side effectively put the game to bed come the 71st minute.
Sub De Cordova-Reid combined with Seri to free himself of the visiting defence, then fired the ball into the bottom left-hand corner.
Rangers' misery would eventually be compounded in injury time, as Robinson's deflected attempt wrong-footed Dieng before nestling into the back of the net.