Luke Amos’ last-minute goal gave 10-man QPR a dramatic 2-1 victory against Blackpool to boost their promotion hopes.
Josh Bowler’s equaliser with eight minutes remaining cancelled out Jimmy Dunne’s first-half opener.
But Amos clinched Rangers’ first win in five matches, taking them up to third in the Sky Bet Championship table, just two points behind second-placed Bournemouth – although the Cherries have three games in hand.
Dunne headed in Stefan Johansen’s 31st-minute corner to put the hosts in front and seemingly in control of the game.
But Dion Sanderson was sent off following a clash with Reece James nine minutes later.
Sanderson dispossessed James with a superb challenge, prompting the left-back to sprint after him and scythe him down.
The on-loan Wolves defender reacted angrily, aiming – or at least motioning to aim – a headbutt at James, which was enough for referee Gavin Ward to brandish the red card.
It resulted in a tough second half for Rangers, although Yoann Barbet missed a great chance to double their lead just before the interval when he headed Johansen’s left-wing free-kick wide of the target.
Goalkeeper Seny Dieng produced a brilliant save to maintain their lead, clawing away Callum Connolly’s header from CJ Hamilton’s cross.
Dieng was unable to rescue Rangers when Dunne failed to clear Jordan Thorniley’s punt into the box and Connolly nodded the ball back to Bowler, who volleyed home.
But QPR hit back, with George Thomas running onto Moses Odubajo’s ball over the top and crossing from the left for fellow substitute Amos to score at the near post.
With his team having struggled of late and with Scotland forward Lyndon Dykes out injured, Rangers boss Mark Warburton decided to start without a recognised striker, leaving Charlie Austin and Andre Gray on the bench and deploying Chris Willock as the main attacker.
Rangers again struggled to create clear-cut chances in the first half, and Sanderson’s dismissal led to Willock being replaced at the interval by a defensive player in Dominic Ball as Warburton’s side looked to protect their slender lead.
They defended nervously but soundly until Bowler netted, and showed excellent resilience to recover from that blow to take three points which took them above Blackburn – who they visit this weekend – and increased the pressure on Bournemouth.
What the managers said…
QPR’s Mark Warburton: “The sending-off changes everything in terms of the dynamic of the game. The boys dug in in the second half. The boys responded – and it’s those moments that can galvanise a team and a club in an important season. Everyone would have expected us after the equaliser to be hanging on for the last five minutes, but they showed their quality. We’re not a team that can just sit back and try to defend. We’re at our best on the front foot. And that was the message at half-time: to stay on the front foot.
“It could have cost us and he [Sanderson] knows that. He was having a great game, made one or two great interceptions, and I was really pleased with him. He’s 22 and he’ll learn. Is it right? No. But he’s made a mistake. He was
devastated in the changing room – he realised the implication and what could have happened. He apologised to the players and that showed his character.”
Blackpool’s Neil Critchley: “It was a painful ending and it’s happened too many times this season. Games in which we should have taken a draw in, we’ve lost, and games we should have won we’ve drawn. This feeling keeps occurring and I don’t want it to be the story of our season. We’re nearly there, but we want to improve. We have to take at least a point from this game and we haven’t. That needs to change.
“The sending-off changed the game and we had a lot of the ball. We maybe didn’t make the best of it, but we still had chances and I don’t think anyone could argue that we didn’t deserve something from the game. We had them pinned back in their own half and we felt we could go and win the game. We can’t lose that game. We should not concede the second goal like we did. We should get at least a point.”