QPR 2 Sunderland 3
QPR battled back from two down only for Wes Brown’s 89th-minute winner to condemn them to another home defeat – their fifth of the season.
Nicklas Bendtner headed home Kieran Richardson’s corner and Sunderland went further ahead eight minutes after half-time, when Stephane Sessegnon held off Danny Gabbidon to score on the counter attack.
Rangers then launched a blistering fightback and hauled themselves level with two goals in the space of four minutes.
Heidar Helguson set them on their way, getting in front of Brown to turn in Alejandro Faurlin’s cross.
And Faurlin was also involved in the equaliser, sending in another cross which Helguson nodded down to Jamie Mackie, who finished from close range.
However, Brown had the last word, heading in another Richardson corner to give the Black Cats their second victory in three matches under recently-appointed boss Martin O’Neill.
It left QPR only two places and two points above the relegation zone although their second-half rally showed that whatever their current shortcomings at Premier League level, they certainly do not lack fighting spirit.
They do lack top-flight quality at the back, which is why signing a central defender is a priority for manager Neil Warnock ahead of the January transfer window.
Their defensive frailties were underlined by Warnock’s justified reluctance to commit men forward, with Shaun Derry replacing striker Jay Bothroyd in the starting line-up.
Even with added cover in front of them, the centre of Rangers’ defence was badly exposed during a one-sided first half.
They had a lucky escape when an unmarked Bendtner headed Seb Larsson’s 14th-minute free-kick against the post.
But the Dane made no mistake five minutes later, giving Matt Connolly the slip to meet Richardson’s perfect delivery and net his sixth goal of the season.
Warnock made a change at half-time, bringing Adel Taarabt on for the ineffective Shaun Wright-Phillips.
It had an immediate effect and Rangers came close when Helguson’s header from Armand Traore’s cross was headed off the line by Titus Bramble.
It proved to be an important moment in the match because shortly afterwards, QPR’s necessary risk-taking backfired when Sessegnon raced through the middle, rounded keeper Paddy Kenny and tapped into an empty net.
Rangers seemed to be out of it, but Helguson’s seventh goal of the campaign and Mackie’s first since his return from a broken leg left them on course for a potentially valuable point.
They surged forward in search of a dramatic winner but remained vulnerable at the other end – and Kenny needed to produce a fine save to temporarily prevent Sunderland regaining the lead.
Sessagnon again ran at the middle of the R’s defence and this time found substitute Craig Gardner, whose curling right-footed effort from the edge of the area was brilliantly tipped away.
Kenny, restored to the team following his recent injury, also dived to his left to keep out a rasping late shot from Phil Bardsley.
But Kenny was unable to save the day when Richardson found Brown, whose powerful header ended up in the roof of the net despite Faurlin’s attempt to hack the ball off the line.