A VALIANT QPR side clinched a dramatic 2-1 victory over Blackpool under the lights at Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium.
Jimmy Dunne’s 31st-minute header set the R’s on their way, but Dion Sanderson’s 40th-minute red card flipped the game on its head with Mark Warburton’s side having to show their defensive qualities in abundance throughout the second half.
Josh Bowler struck in the 82nd minute for what many thought would earn Blackpool a point, but Luke Amos had other ideas – flicking home in the 89th minute what proved to be an unlikely winner.
Heading into this one, Rangers boss Warburton made two changes to his starting XI following Saturday’s draw with Hull City.
Captain Stefan Johansen regained his place in the starting line-up, replacing Amos, while Moses Odubajo returned to Rangers’ side - replacing Charlie Austin and freeing Chris Willock up to play in a more attacking role.
The R’s lined up with Seny Dieng in goal, behind a back five from left to right of Odubajo, Yoann Barbet, Dunne, Sanderson and Albert Adomah.
Jeff Hendrick lined up alongside Sam Field and the returning Johansen in midfield, with Ilias Chair sitting behind acting striker Willock.
Visitors Blackpool arrived in west London sitting in 15th position, a comfortable 21 points above the relegation zone, only highlighting what a positive first campaign the Tangerines have had back in the Championship following a six-year absence.
However, some mixed results in recent weeks haven’t necessarily given Neil Critchley’s side the credit they deserve, with fine performances against Fulham and AFC Bournemouth to name but a few only highlighting the quality that they possess among their ranks.
After an even opening five minutes, it was the R’s who were first to threaten.
Breaking tradition, Rangers were attacking the Loft End in the first half and lone striker Willock tested Daniel Grimshaw with a speculative edge-of-the-box strike, only for his effort to be collected by the Blackpool 'keeper.
Warburton’s side continued to control possession of the ball throughout the opening 20 minutes but lacked a cutting edge, with both Chair and Willock seeing their chances rolling comfortably into Grimshaw’s arms.
As we approached the half-hour mark, Moroccan Chair tested Grimshaw directly from his corner kick, only for the 24-year-old to smartly tip the ball away from under his crossbar.
But with the resulting corner, Rangers were able to take the lead!
Johansen’s in-swinging delivery eventually found Dunne at the far post, who was able to break away from his marker and head home from close-range for his third goal of the campaign.
After going ahead, the Super Hoops had seemingly found their passing range, with Johansen and Willock linking up well and Hendrick eventually brought down on the edge of the Blackpool box.
Chair stepped up but the 24-year-old's effort was fired straight into an orange wall, before Johansen’s volleyed strike drifted wide.
The 40th minute saw a moment of controversy as Sanderson received a straight red card for an off-the-ball altercation with Reece James.
Following a fine tackle from the R's loanee, James brought down the 22-year-old who quickly retaliated and received his marching orders as a result - a moment which would drastically change the game.
As we approached additional time in the first half, Barbet was agonisingly close to doubling Rangers’ lead.
Johansen was again the provider, but the French defender could only divert his header wide and at the break, the 10 men led by one.
Heading into the second half, boss Warburton made a switch with Dominic Ball replacing Willock as Rangers looked to plug the gap left by Sanderson’s early departure.
The Super Hoops knew they had to dig in deep defensively, with Dieng having to be on hand on numerous occasions in the opening exchanges of the closing period.
Initially the Senegal international was alert to tip away Callum Connolly’s goal-bound header, before collecting substitute Gary Madine’s effort.
As the visitors pushed for an equaliser, this certainly created gaps at the back which lone striker Chair was keen to exploit. In the 61st minute, he certainly served a warning to Neil Critchley’s visitors.
Adomah’s perfectly-weighted ball fell to the Moroccan, who from a tight angle forced Grimshaw into action down to his right.
The 66th minute saw the arrival of Amos, who replaced captain Johansen, as Warburton looked to inject some energy into a tiring Rangers midfield.
Despite holding a deep defensive line, the R’s continued to press from the front with Chair chasing and hassling both of Blackpool’s centre-halves and, as we approached the final 15 minutes, a resolute QPR side continued to cling on to their slim lead.
Chair then tested Grimshaw once again five minutes later, but the momentum was certainly with the visitors who sensed that a clear opportunity would be coming their way.
In the 82nd minute, an equalising goal finally arrived.
Bowler’s effort - which was cleverly smashed into the ground - bounced over a helpless Dieng and into the top corner, drawing the visitors level.
Momentum was certainly with the Tangerines and Madine would have been disappointed not to give his side the lead minutes later.
A dangerous run from Jordan Gabriel found the former Sheffield Wednesday man, but he could only divert his effort wide.
However, despite all of Blackpool’s pressure, it was the Super Hoops who clinched victory with a dramatic late winner.
Some fine work from substitute George Thomas saw him picking out Amos at the near post, whose instinctive touch flew past Grimshaw and sent W12 crazy.
Despite taking the lead once again late on, the R’s knew that the job wasn’t done yet. There were still four nervy additional minutes to be played and once again, the Super Hoops’ defence grit and determination shone through.
As the R's threw everything towards defending their goal, scorer Amos burst through the Blackpool midfield in a quick counter-attacking move, only for Bowler to tactically bring him down at the vital moment.
The R’s stood firm though and as Gavin Ward’s whistle sounded around W12, the R’s faithful erupted with joy as Warburton’s side had clinched their first victory since late January.