LUKE Amos’ late strike was enough to seal an important 1-0 victory for Queens Park Rangers in this Sky Bet Championship clash at Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium.
The 25-year-old's sixth goal of the campaign on 88 minutes clinched three vital points for Mark Warburton’s side as we edged closer to the play-off spots - and also relegated Wayne Rooney's Rams in the process.
In an entertaining clash - which saw both sides pushing for a winner - Derby were reduced to 10 men late on, as Tom Lawrence picked up a second yellow.
And it was to be QPR’s afternoon when Amos struck late on.
Heading into this one, R’s boss Mark Warburton made one change from the 2-2 draw with Huddersfield Town, with Dion Sanderson replacing Yoann Barbet in the backline.
This ultimately meant Keiren Westwood lined up in goal, behind a back four of Moses Odubajo, Sanderson, stand-in captain Jimmy Dunne and Sam McCallum.
A midfield diamond included Sam Field, Luke Amos, Andre Dozzell and Ilias Chair, with George Tomas deployed just behind lone striker Lyndon Dykes.
Despite a recent run of poor form, the R’s headed into this one with a boost following a resilient draw with Huddersfield on Good Friday. Rangers knew that defeat this afternoon would all but end any chances of reaching the play-offs.
The Rams, meanwhile, headed to W12 knowing that only a victory would do - they had to better Reading’s result versus Swansea if they were to avoid confirmation of relegation for another week.
It was the Super Hoops who started on the front foot, with Chair at the forefront of Rangers’ early attacks. The Moroccan initially found McCallum down the left-hand side, whose early cross was cut out.
In the 10th minute, Rangers had the ball in the back of the Rams' net. Westwood’s long ball was flicked on by Dykes, with Amos calmly rounding Ryan Allsop and slotting home – but the celebrations were quickly cut short as Amos was adjudged to be in an offside position.
The R’s continued to threaten. Chair combined well with Thomas, before seeing his goalbound effort headed away by Eiran Cashin at the vital moment to ensured it remained goalless.
The most dangerous opportunity of the half so far arrived Derby’s way in the 22nd minute. Tom Lawrence’s deep cross found Luke Plange at the far post, but the young forward could only divert his header onto the top of the crossbar.
In a scrappy opening half hour in west London, chances continued to fall for both sides. Krystian Bielik fired over for the visitors following a moment of confusion among the R’s backline, then Thomas found space in the Rams' box before picking out Dykes, whose scuffed effort was blocked.
But there was to be no goalscoring action before half-time - despite Rangers pushing for a breakthrough and Thomas troubling the visiting defence late on.
Warburton’s side started the second half bright, with Chair forcing Allsop into a fine acrobatic save with his thunderous edge-of-the-box effort – before the Moroccan tried his luck with another ambitious curling strike moments later.
These chances set the tone for the closing period, with both sides pushing for the elusive opener.
Derby tested the Rangers backline through young winger Malcolm Ebiowei, who beat McCallum but couldn’t pick out a team-mate and the chance quickly passed.
The 58th minute saw the departure of Odubajo after picking up a slight knock. This ultimately saw him replaced by Osman Kakay, who slotted into the familiar right-back role.
Rangers continued to turn the screw, with McCallum the latest player to trouble the Rams, but the full-back's powerful effort was blocked by the head of Bielik who had to receive treatment for his troubles.
Dykes was next to try his luck, with his long-range effort stinging the palms of Allsop, but the subsequent corner came to nothing and it remained all-square.
The arrival of both Ravel Morrison and Charlie Austin for the Rams and R’s respectively midway through the second half certainly saw the game opening up as both sides added further attacking emphasis to their play.
Austin’s arrival for Thomas saw Warburton’s side moving to a front two, as the 32-year-old partnered Dykes in attack.
In the 75th minute, Warburton made his final change of the afternoon as Dozzell was replaced by Stefan Johansen.
As we approached the final 10 minutes, things quickly intensified. Ebiowei again troubled down the right-hand side for the visitors, before Chair tried his luck with a volley from a considerable distance from goal.
Both sides pushed for what would surely be the winner and in the 88th minute, Amos would finally the break deadlock.
The former Spurs man calmly slotted home his sixth goal of the campaign following Dykes' perfectly-weighted through ball. It was also his second strike in a matter of days.
Eight additional minutes were added on at the death and the R’s knew they had a nervous final few minutes to see out if they were to clinch all three points.
Chair did well down the left-hand side, but his dangerous-looking cross was cut out by Cashin.
Derby had their chances to draw level, but Lawrence’s second yellow card for a foul on Austin deep into injury time compounded a frustrating afternoon for the Rams.
As the full-time whistle finally blew around W12, Rangers had moved up to 10th in the league table, but more importantly just two points off the final play-off spot with three crucial games to go.