Cardiff 0 QPR 1
Teenager Ray Jones struck in the 88th minute to pilfer the points for QPR and leave Coca-Cola Championship leaders Cardiff stunned.
The 18-year-old slid in at the far post to convert a teasing low cross from fellow substitute Nick Ward and condemn the Bluebirds to their first home defeat of the season.
Rangers’ gameplan worked to perfection as they reduced Cardiff to a night of frustration before hitting them with the late sucker-punch.
A much-improved second-half saw Cardiff hit the bar, have a goal disallowed and also see a seemingly legitimate penalty appeal turned down.
However, Rangers will feel they deserved their victory as Cardiff’s promotion hopes were dealt a significant blow.
John Gregory’s men were the more threatening of the sides in the opening period and fashioned four goalscoring opportunities which could have put them ahead.
The loan signing of Chelsea midfielder Jimmy Smith has worked wonders for the Loftus Road club and he came close to finding the net inside the second minute.
The 19-year-old, who has already scored five times since joining Rangers in September, showed delightful skill on the edge of the 18-yard box.
He turned Riccardo Scimeca all too easily and thrashed a left-foot strike narrowly wide of Neil Alexander’s far post.
Rangers were dealt a blow in the 15th minute when midfielder Gareth Ainsworth was forced off through injury and replaced by Ward.
But two minutes later they should have led after Dexter Blackstock headed wide an excellent left-wing cross from Lee Cook.
Midfielder Cook emerged as a key influence and his superb 20-yard strike in the 20th minute drew a fine fingertip save from Alexander.
Cardiff went into the game with an impressive record of six wins and two draws from eight home games this term but they showed little sign of a team leading the table.
Rangers – 18th in the Championship before the game – continued to create the better chances and were unfortunate not to lead in the 31st minute when Blackstock fired straight at Alexander after a miscued clearance from the Cardiff goalkeeper.
The pendulum began to swing in Cardiff’s favour as half-time approached.
Paul Parry fired over from 20 yards and 11-goal Michael Chopra saw his penalty appeals turned down after hitting the ground under challenge from Damion Stewart.
Cardiff quickly upped the tempo after the restart and Stephen McPhail fired in a fierce shot which Blackstock blocked bravely.
The Bluebirds began to dominate but they continued to struggle to find the killer touch in front of goal.
Luck deserted them in the 55th minute when Kevin McNaughton drilled a shot against the bar but Rangers remained a threat on the counter-attack.
Marcus Bignot forced Alexander into a fine save and Darren Purse looked to have won a penalty late on as he tumbled in the box.
The usually clinical Chopra wasted another opportunity shortly before the hour mark and it ultimately proved crucial as Rangers claimed the late winner.
With just two minutes remaining, Ward showed neat footwork to glide past two opponents on the right flank and send over the low cross which Jones clinically dispatched to leave Gregory punching the air in celebration.