ALBION fell to a 4-1 defeat against QPR in their Barclays Premier League encounter at The Hawthorns having found themselves three goals down at half-time.
The Baggies were left with too much of a mountain to climb after the interval having been undone by a sublime Eduardo Vargas strike, Charlie Austin’s back-post header and a superb lobbed effort from Bobby Zamora during a first-half which stunned the majority of those present.
The hosts rallied after the break and substitute Victor Anichebe reduced the arrears with a fine header, however Albion paid the price for their profligacy in front of goal and some slack defending on a frustrating afternoon as the R’s celebrated two wonder strikes.
Matters went from bad to worse for the Throstles in the 83rd minute as sub Youssouf Mulumbu was given his marching orders for an elbow as he challenged in the air with Joey Barton.
And it was Barton himself who rifled home a fourth deep into injury time, despite loud appeals for a foul on Gareth McAuley, to ensure it was an afternoon to forget for Tony Pulis’ side.
Chris Brunt and Brown Ideye returned for Albion having missed the 3-0 defeat at Manchester City last time out due to suspension and injury respectively.
Suspended defender Craig Dawson was ruled out while Jonas Olsson dropped to the bench, where there was a return for Claudio Yacob following his ban.
Boaz Myhill safely collected an early Matt Phillips free-kick before Albion started to grab a foothold on the game, Ideye heading off target when well placed.
But it was the visitors who broke the deadlock in the 15th minute when Vargas collected the ball from distance and unleashed a 25-yard strike across Myhill and into the far corner.
Albion again came close through Ideye soon after as Chris Baird’s powerful low cross cannoned off his leg and fell inches the wrong side of a post.
Yet the hosts were again made to pay the price as QPR doubled their lead in the 37th minute.
Phillips’ corner was flicked on by substitute Niko Kranjcar, introduced for the injured Vargas, and Austin found space at the back post to nod home.
And the R’s found the net for a third time before the break as Zamora latched on to Phillips’ throughball down the right to flick a sublime effort over Myhill from the best part of 30 yards, clipping the crossbar on its way in.
Pulis introduced Anichebe for Stephane Sessegnon at the break in a bid to try and spark a turnaround.
Gardner fired straight at Rob Green when well placed before Austin did likewise at the other end, Myhill collecting his effort down the middle.
But Albion gave themselves hope in the 58th minute thanks in large part to Saido Berahino’s perseverance as he battled for the ball and won possession on the left side of the penalty area, crossing for Anichebe to head home.
Ideye tested Green shortly afterwards as the Baggies turned the screw, Pulis bringing Jonas Olsson off the bench and changing formation to the more attacking 3-4-3.
Ideye again forced Green into a save, this time from distance, before Berahino poked off target as he tried to redirect Darren Fletcher’s strike.
Berahino was guilty of sending a close-range header straight at Green and Ideye headed over from Brunt’s left-wing cross before Barton compounded the misery with a late fourth goal for the visitors.
Albion: Myhill, Baird (Olsson 65’), McAuley, Lescott, Brunt, Gardner (Mulumbu 72’), Fletcher, Morrison, Sessegnon (Anichebe 45’), Berahino, Ideye.
Subs: Rose, Wisdom, Pocognoli, Yacob.
GOAL: Anichebe 58’
BOOKED: Sessegnon (foul 45+2’), Brunt (dissent 90+6)
SENT OFF: Mulumbu (foul 83’)
QPR: Green, Isla, Onuoha, Caulker, Suk-Young (Hill 82’), Phillips, Sandro, Barton, Vargas (Kranjcar 30’), Austin, Zamora (Henry 75’).
Subs: McCarthy, Hoilett, Doughty, Sutherland.
GOALS: Vargas 15’, Austin 37’, Zamora 43’, Barton 90+5
BOOKED: Caulker (foul 23’), Barton (foul 74’), Henry (foul 90+5’)
Referee: Lee Probert (Wiltshire)
Albion star man: Chris Brunt