Stoke 2 QPR 3
Heidar Helguson scored twice as QPR climbed to ninth in the Premier League with their third away victory of the season.
The in-form Icelander has now scored five goals in as many matches for Rangers, who recovered after going a goal down after only nine minutes.
Jonathan Walters, who turned down the R’s in order to join Stoke, fired home after Joey Barton had given the ball away in midfield.
Rangers hit back with Helguson’s fine header from Armand Traore’s cross before Luke Young netted from close range – his first goal for QPR – following good link-up play between Shaun Wright-Phillips and Jamie Mackie.
Helguson struck again nine minutes after the interval, creeping in front of Ryan Shawcross to tuck away Barton’s left-wing cross.
Shawcross atoned by scoring with a header but Rangers boss Neil Warnock, whose squad did not include Adel Taarabt, saw his side overcome their shaky start with some magnificent second-half defending.
It was a mixed afternoon for Barton. He was involved in much of Rangers’ best work but was at fault for the opening goal and was fortunate not to concede a late penalty after tripping Robert Huth with a poorly timed challenge.
Barton’s early mistake was punished, with former QPR man Peter Crouch threading the ball through to Walters, who found the far corner of the net.
Crouch should have scored after another defensive lapse seven minutes later.
Anton Ferdinand hesitated while trying to guide the ball back to keeper Paddy Kenny, allowing Crouch to nip in front of him. Kenny saved the striker’s first effort and got a hand to his follow-up, enabling Clint Hill to clear off the line.
Hill started against his former club with Armand Traore switching from left-back to a wide midfield role – all part of an enforced reshuffle because Jay Bothroyd was ruled out after picking up a knock in training on Wednesday.
And Traore made the most of his more advanced position, racing onto Alejandro Faurlin’s pass and delivering a first-time cross from the by-line for Helguson to score.
His goal was against the run of play – as was Young’s shortly before half-time.
The defender surged forward and despite the move seeming to come to nothing, he continued into the box so was well placed when Wright-Phillips slipped the ball through for Mackie, whose cut back was walloped by Young into the roof of the net.
Worse followed for City when Shawcross switched off and was made to pay by Helguson, who ghosted in to meet Barton’s delivery and double Rangers’ lead.
Helguson then pounced on the rebound to net again after Wright-Phillips’ shot hit the post, but he was rightly denied a hat-trick by an offside flag.
Stoke appeared to be running out of ideas but pulled a goal back when Shawcross nodded in after Crouch had headed Matthew Etherington’s right-wing corner towards the far post.
Rangers stood firm in the closing stages but were helped by referee Mike Jones who, even after consulting his assistant, inexplicably awarded them a free-kick despite Barton impeding Huth in the scramble to clear a Rory Delap throw.