Derby County 1 QPR 0
QPR missed the chance to go second in the Championship table as a below-par performance saw them beaten by fellow promotion hopefuls Derby County.
A draw would have been good enough to take Rangers above Burnley and back into the automatic promotion places.
But they never matched the urgency of their hosts in a tame first half and created precious few openings throughout.
A looping John Eustace header after 20 minutes was good enough to earn victory for the league’s highest scorers but they could easily have won by a greater margin.
Rangers should have gone behind inside a minute, but some brilliant covering defending by debutant Aaron Hughes stopped Patrick Bamford getting a shot away as the on-loan Chelsea striker dallied when clean through.
After a lacklustre opening the R’s briefly looked like settling, with Joey Barton and Tom Carroll looking lively breaking from midfield.
But the Rams, with Will Hughes prompting play from midfield, were playing with far greater tempo and creating what few chances were on offer.
QPR keeper Rob Green was forced into a fine reaction save to tip over a Clint Hill clearance that smashed against Jake Buxton and looked destined for the top corner.
And the pressure told when Green flapped away a Will Hughes corner and Eustace looped the ball into the net.
Andrew Johnson had a shot blocked for Rangers but the Rams looked comfortable in defence until the final stages of the first half when the visitors finally threatened.
Derby keeper Lee Grant did well to push away a Hughes header but that was QPR’s only noteworthy chance of the half.
And the hosts could have gone 2-0 up just before the break when Green almost made a hash of a backpass with Bamford in close attendance.
A double change at the break saw Junior Hoilett and Modibo Maiga introduced for the ineffective Johnson and the largely anonymous Gary O’Neil.
But the best early opportunities still came the way of a Rams side who have emerged as serious promotion contenders under former QPR coach Steve McClaren.
Bamford narrowly missed out on sliding the ball in at the far post after a good move that he started, and Buxton headed an effort just wide.
Rangers continued to look slightly disjointed, with their best hope coming via the pace of Hoilett.
But he failed to find a telling final pass despite several promising runs.
Finally Rangers began to seize some control in midfield with the game entering its final quarter.
Barton had one decent long-range strike easily saved and almost created a simple headed chance for Maiga with a clever dinked cross.
However, Derby weathered the storm to earn a seventh win in eight home league games and move to within a point of third-placed Rangers.
QPR: Green, Hughes, Dunne, Hill, Assou-Ekotto, Kranjcar, Carroll (Jenas 79), Barton, O’Neil (Hoilett 45), Johnson (Maiga 45), Doyle.
Subs not used: Murphy, Traore, Onuoha, Henry.