Marquee January signing Christopher Samba gifted the Cottagers their first two goals, bringing down Ashkan Dejagah to allow Dimitar Berbatov to net an eighth-minute penalty.
Things got worse when Samba lost possession of the ball on the edge of his own box, allowing Berbatov to coolly slot home past Julio Cesar.
Chants of “going down” echoed around Craven Cottage when Clint Hill put a John Arne Riise cross into his goal, but QPR rallied and launched the unlikeliest of comebacks.
Adel Taarabt reduced the deficit on the stroke of half-time before Loic Remy netted moments after seeing a penalty saved by Mark Schwarzer.
Despite Steve Sidwell’s late sending off, Fulham held on.
The hosts started brightest and, after early warning shots from Riise and Damien Duff, Samba’s late challenge on Dejagah saw referee Lee Probert point to the spot. Berbatov cooly converted the resulting penalty to give Fulham an eighth-minute lead.
January signing Samba messed up spectacularly again, caught out by Duff, whose hassling saw the ball end up at Berbatov’s feet, who burst into the box before finishing with aplomb.
Things got worse for QPR. Hangeland directed a deft backheel into the path of Riise, whose driven cross was deflected home by Hill.
The Rs gave themselves a glimmer of hope late in the first half when Taarabt ran at the hosts’ backline before firing low past Schwarzer.
They started the second half with intensity and Remy saw a shot deflect just wide 10 seconds in and, after a strike was blocked by Hangeland, had a chance from the penalty spot in the 49th minute. Probert pointed to the spot after Karagounis was fooled by the quick feet of Taarabt, but Remy’s penalty was saved by Schwarzer. The France international, though, soon made amends, thrashing home off the underside of the bar.
Fulham were on the ropes and their hopes of hanging on were made even tougher when Sidwell received a red card for scything down Armand Traore. Remy curled just wide as QPR pressed for an all-important leveller that never came.
FULHAM: Schwarzer, Riether, Senderos, Hangeland, Riise, Duff, Karagounis, Sidwell, Dejagah (Emanuelson 38), Ruiz, Berbatov, Emanuelson (Frimpong 80).
QPR: Julio Cesar, Bosingwa, Samba, Hill (Onuoha 46), Traore (Mackie 83), Townsend, Mbia, Jenas, Taarabt (Hoilett 74), Zamora, Remy.
Referee: Lee Probert (Wiltshire).