There were no fans inside the stadium to see a fiercely-contested local derby, but there was little on the field to suggest any lack of passion or simmering resentment as QPR edged out Brentford.
In a rivalry that has only genuinely grown legs over the last few years, Brentford have dominated Rangers since the latter’s relegation from the Premier League in 2015, winning nine of the last 13 matches between the sides in all competitions.
Rangers’ 2-1 victory on Wednesday was just their third win in that six-year run, with the only draw being a somewhat fortuitous 2-2 encounter in which a far superior Brentford team somehow surrendered a 2-0 lead in the last two minutes of injury time, in 2017.
The seeds for Wednesday’s bad-tempered and occasionally spiteful encounter were sown after the November meeting between at the Brentford Community Stadium, where even the usually-measured QPR boss Mark Warburton lost his cool after the Bees won a tight affair 2-1.
Warburton was incensed by the actions of a vocal Brentford bench, accusing referee Matt Donohue of allowing himself to be influenced too easily in not sending off Mads Bech Sorensen for bringing down a goal-bound Lyndon Dykes – and even suggested his former club had sneaked in fans for a behind-closed-doors encounter.
In a pre-match interview on Tuesday, Warburton pointedly remarked that things were said during that match that still rankled with him and his players.
That anger was taken out on to the field, particularly in the second half, when tackles flew in and the verbals from both benches were hard not to miss in a ground badly missing the sounds of supporters.
Dominic Ball, booked early for a clumsy challenge on Mathias Jensen, found himself walking a red-card tightrope with every subsequent challenge he made as the Brentford bench made their feelings known.
It was much to the chagrin of the Rangers midfielder, who implored referee Gavin Ward: ‘Don’t listen to what they are saying over there, they want you to send me off.’
Warburton, whose cries from the sidelines are almost always directed at his players, was then angered by the reaction of Brentford goalkeeper David Raya following a challenge Lyndon Dykes after Bess boss Thomas Frank and his energetic assistant Brian Riemer demanded a card be shown to the Scotland international.
Brentford were good value for their lead at half-time, but the second half saw a more determined home side step up to the challenge both vocally and physically.
Charlie Austin, not for the first time in his QPR career, found himself front and centre of a dramatic second half, and in constant dialogue with the Brentford bench as he wrestled continuously with Sorensen – many times off the ball.
Geoff Cameron and in-form Brentford hitman Ivan Toney fought a running battle all game, with the impressive striker infuriating the Rangers skipper with a nasty late tackle on Yoann Barbet shortly after the American had ruthlessly taken him out after being beaten by the flight of an enormous Raya goal-kick and being lucky to escape with only a yellow card.
The game was turned on its head in a wild four-minute second-half spell in which QPR debutant Sam Field equalised before Austin slammed home the winner via a deflection then sprinting off to celebrate his goal wildly in front of the Bees management.
That goal knocked the stuffing out of the high-flying visitors, whose 21-match unbeaten run was ended by Barnsley on Sunday, and Rangers held on largely untroubled for three vital points.
The fun continued after the final whistle with a visibly irate Austin getting into a shouting match with Frank and his staff as he left the field.
A shout of ‘We’ll have a lovely glass of wine to celebrate that’ then went up from Cameron as the players disappeared down the tunnel, referencing Frank’s much-trotted post-match remark after a victory.
Another Rangers voiced then chimed in with ‘I hope you don’t s*** the bed again like you did last year’.
Warburton later played down the Austin celebration as ‘a local derby with emotions running high,’ while an unamused Frank refused to discuss what had been said between him and the QPR matchwinner.
Despite the defeat, Brentford showed enough quality to suggest promotion should be achieved this season and this game and Sunday’s loss should be nothing more than a blip.
But for Rangers, now on a run of five wins in six matches, how they enjoyed getting one over their neighbours.