A stunning 90th-minute finish from substitute Andre Gray propelled Queens Park Rangers up to third in the Championship with victory over a spirited Derby County.
With his back to goal, Gray turned and smashed home the winner with Rams goalkeeper Kelle Roos rooted to the spot.
On a night of brilliant goals, Tom Lawrence lashed Derby in front on 10 minutes before Chris Willock’s volley brought the R’s level five minutes into the second half.
Ilias Chair and Yoann Barbet wasted excellent chances to put QPR in front before Gray’s wonderful volley, after Chair’s header had rebounded to him off the post.
The victory – R’s boss Mark Warburton’s 50th in charge – lifts them up to third, seven points behind second-placed Bournemouth.
Wayne Rooney’s Rams stay bottom – after the end of their mini-revival of three matches unbeaten – with one point, 19 from safety following their combined 21-point deduction for breaches of English Football League accounting rules and going into administration.
Watched on again at a chilly Pride Park by prospective new owner Chris Kirchner, the Rams started brightly and came close to testing R’s goalkeeper Seny Dieng inside the opening 30 seconds when Graeme Shinnie’s cross-shot agonisingly evaded the outstretched boot of Lawrence.
It wasn’t long though before top-scorer Lawrence, whose two goals helped seal Derby’s thrilling comeback win against Bournemouth in their last home game, again showed his prowess in front of goal with a brilliant finish to give the Rams the lead on 10 minutes.
Sent clear of QPR’s high defensive line by Shinnie’s gorgeous pass from inside the centre circle, Lawrence motored clear of Rob Dickie and Jimmy Dunne to rifle the ball into the top right-hand corner of the net from just inside the box for his fifth goal of the season and 50th of his career.
The R’s rise into the play-off picture has been fuelled by an excellent run in November, winning 10 points from a possible 12 coming into the match, but despite lots of possession, especially down the flanks, they struggled to create any clear-cut chances in the first half an hour.
But with eight minutes remaining in the first half they should’ve levelled when Charlie Austin rose unchallenged to meet Chair’s pinpoint free-kick from the right but planted his header high over the bar.
The home side’s hopes of maintaining their first-half momentum after the break were dashed on 50 minutes by a ruthless QPR counter-attack from a cheap Derby turnover, as Chair released Austin down left and his perfect cross was superbly side-footed into the top corner on the volley by a back-peddling Willock.
Scoring for the 31st game in a row buoyed the visitors and they came forward with much more threat. Chair should have put the R’s in front inside the last 20 minutes but put his diving header from Willock’s cross over from 12 yards.
Barbet was then denied at the near post by Roos as the ball fell to the French defender on the corner of the six-yard box following a Willock corner.
QPR’s confidence always suggested they would get another chance and Gray, on as a 76th-minute substitute after a three-week absence through injury, delivered a finish of the highest quality.
As Chair’s header cannoned back off the post and looped over his shoulder Gray, with his back to goal 10 yards out, controlled the ball on his right thigh, flicked it up with his right boot and, in one turn, lashed the ball high into the top corner past a helpless Roos.
QPR manager Mark Warburton told BBC London 94.9:
“We let ourselves down in the first half with a soft goal and what we had to do was step it up in the second half, and we did that.
“The finishes showed quality. The equaliser was a good quality goal and Andre’s reaction and the quality was outstanding.
“We had absolute respect for Derby who had a big result against Bournemouth and kept a clean sheet against Fulham. We had to meet a stern challenge tonight and I think we did that. All credit to them.”
Derby manager Wayne Rooney told BBC Radio Derby:
“We started very well even before we scored, on the front foot.
“We scored the goal and we dropped back too quickly, didn’t get the press right like we worked on.
“I said to the lads at half-time the warning signs are there, we had to wake up, we had to be better. We were giving the ball away too easily.
“It’s a tough one to take but I think we got what we deserved.”
- 4ShinnieSubstituted forEboseleat 79′minutes
- 38KnightSubstituted forKazim-Richardsat 79′minutes
- 11MorrisonSubstituted forJózwiakat 69′minutes
- 3WallaceSubstituted forOdubajoat 53′minutes
- 11AustinSubstituted forGrayat 76′minutesBooked at 90mins
- 21WillockSubstituted forFieldat 90+3′minutes
- Jeremy Simpson
Match ends, Derby County 1, Queens Park Rangers 2.
Second Half ends, Derby County 1, Queens Park Rangers 2.
Attempt blocked. Kamil Józwiak (Derby County) right footed shot from the right side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Festy Ebosele.
Substitution, Queens Park Rangers. Sam Field replaces Chris Willock.
Ilias Chair (Queens Park Rangers) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Festy Ebosele (Derby County).
Andre Gray (Queens Park Rangers) is shown the yellow card for excessive celebration.
Goal! Derby County 1, Queens Park Rangers 2. Andre Gray (Queens Park Rangers) right footed shot from the centre of the box to the top right corner.
Ilias Chair (Queens Park Rangers) hits the left post with a header from the centre of the box. Assisted by Chris Willock with a cross.
Corner, Derby County. Conceded by Jimmy Dunne.
Corner, Queens Park Rangers. Conceded by Phil Jagielka.
Foul by Andre Dozzell (Queens Park Rangers).
Liam Thompson (Derby County) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Ilias Chair (Queens Park Rangers) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Max Bird (Derby County).
Corner, Queens Park Rangers. Conceded by Kelle Roos.
Attempt saved. Chris Willock (Queens Park Rangers) right footed shot from the right side of the box is saved in the top right corner. Assisted by Andre Gray.
Corner, Queens Park Rangers. Conceded by Nathan Byrne.
Substitution, Derby County. Colin Kazim-Richards replaces Jason Knight.
Substitution, Derby County. Festy Ebosele replaces Graeme Shinnie.