Middlesbrough captain Grant Leadbitter kept his cool to slot home a stoppage-time penalty and earn his side a dramatic late win over QPR at the Riverside.
The midfielder converted from the spot four minutes into time added on after QPR forward Leroy Fer was shown the red card for handling Daniel Ayala’s overhead kick on the line.
It earned Aitor Karanka’s men a victory in a poor game which neither side deserved to win.
QPR interim boss Neil Warnock missed his side’s trip north for “personal reasons”, the club said in a statement. The 66-year-old was placed in charge of the Championship outfit after Chris Ramsey was sacked earlier this month, but he was absent for last night’s game and put his assistant Kevin Blackwell in charge.
The game itself proved a fairly drab affair on a bitterly cold night on Teesside, although both sides created enough chances.
Fer had a early sight of goal but his effort only trickled safely to Dimi Konstantopoulos.
Boro had a great chance to take the lead when Adam Clayton played a delightful ball in behind QPR’s back line for David Nugent but just as the striker was about to pull the trigger, Nedum Onuoha managed to clear.
Nugent was a lick of paint away from getting on the scoresheet four minutes later when he brilliantly glanced Albert Adomah’s ball in from right across the face of goal but it came off a post and safely into Rob Green’s hands.
The visitors threatened at the other end in a rare attack. Leadbitter was booked for a foul on Fer – meaning he will miss Boro’s trip to Huddersfield next week – and Konstantopoulos had to punch away Alejandro Faurlin’s fierce free-kick.
QPR started the second half brightly and Yun Suk-young’s low cross from the left evaded Konstantopoulos but Matty Phillips could not get it over the line under pressure from Ben Gibson.
Phillips missed another glorious chance, flashing his right leg at thin air.
The game was petering out to a draw until Ayala’s late effort was handled by Fer and Leadbitter did the rest to grab a late win for Boro, who move to within a point of Championship leaders Hull City and Brighton.
Middlesbrough: Konstantopoulos, Nsue, Ayala, Gibson, Friend, Clayton, Leadbitter, Adomah (Garcia 78), Fabbrini (Stuani 63),Downing, Nugent. Unused substitutes: De Pena, Mejias, Stephens, Zuculini, Woodgate.
QPR: Green, Perch, Onuoha, Hall, Konchesky, Henry, Sandro (Emmanuel-Thomas 82), Faurlin (Tozser 76), Yun (Petrasso 90), Fer, Phillips. Unused substitutes: Luongo, Smithies, Angella, Blackwood.
Referee: Chris Kavanagh (Lancashire).