ALBION’S FA Cup adventure was ended at the first hurdle by Jay Bothroyd’s 76th-minute header as Robert Green inspired the Hoops to victory in this third-round replay.
The former West Ham keeper pulled off first-class saves to deny Romelu Lukaku, Markus Rosenberg – twice – Goran Popov and Graham Dorrans.
And that paved the way for Bothroyd’s header from Alejandro Faurlin’s corner to earn Rangers their first victory over Steve Clarke’s side this term at the fourth time of asking.
Albion were far and away the more positive team over the 90 minutes and created the better chances but could not find the goals their endeavour warranted.
The two teams had it all to do again on a freezing Tuesday evening after Kieron Dyer, who has since been released by Rangers, cancelled out Shane Long’s opener at Loftus Road ten days ago.
Separated by 13 places and 19 points in the Barclays Premier League, the FA Cup offered the visitors a distraction from their relegation battle while the Baggies were gunning for their first win of 2013.
Clarke made four changes from the heart-breaking Reading defeat as Boaz Myhill, Gabriel Tamas, Popov and Rosenberg were recalled in place of Ben Foster, Jonas Olsson, Liam Ridgewell and skipper Chris Brunt (illness).
Clarke was boosted by the return of Steven Reid from a seven-game shin injury absence and he was joined on the bench by fit-again Peter Odemwingie.
Harry Redknapp also rang six changes and it was his side which recorded the first shot of the game, when Bothroyd ran at the Baggies defence before seeing a 20-yard strike deflected well wide.
Albion soon responded but Lukaku was off target with a header from Popov’s centre.
The teams very much cancelled each other out during the opening exchanges but Albion almost created an opening on 16 when Graham Dorrans intercepted a Clint Hill pass. The Scotland international raced down the right but Faurlin was well positioned to head away his centre, with Rosenberg lurking behind.
Albion looked the more purposeful side but Lukaku was well wide of the mark from 25 yards before Dorrans smashed a free-kick from an inviting central position straight into the QPR wall.
Rangers had been pushed back and were struggling to get out of their own half as Albion continued to search for an opening. Their big chance arrived on 29 when Lukaku headed powerfully goalwards from Popov’s stunning left-wing cross – but the in-form striker was denied by Green’s brilliant reflex save.
Completely out of the blue, it was opposite number Myhill’s turn to catch the eye two minutes later when he dived full stretch to his right to push away Bothroyd’s fierce 20-yard drive.
Normal service soon resumed but for all of Albion’s neat approach play, they struggled to get any change out of QPR’s rearguard action.
However, the hosts almost got in on 43 when Jerome Thomas blocked Anton Ferdinand’s attempted clearance and raced into the box, but his centre was cut out by the alert Green, thus denying Rosenberg a tap-in.
Moments later, Dorrans seized on another wayward Rangers pass, only to fire over from an acute angle when he would have been better served passing to a team-mate in the box.
Albion went close within 90 seconds of the second half getting underway when Gareth McAuley looped a header from Morrison’s free-kick onto the roof of Green’s net.
Rangers had a moment of their own on 49 when Myhill did well to prevent Jamie Mackie getting on the end of Ji-Sung Park’s left-wing centre.
McAuley then won another aerial duel in the QPR box, this time from George Thorne’s diagonal ball, but his header sailed harmlessly into Green’s arms.
Back came Rangers, who were carrying more of a threat this half, and McAuley and Gabriel Tamas combined to block Faurlin’s close-range effort after Mackie’s persistence wreaked havoc in the Baggies’ box.
Moments later, sub Shaun Wright-Phillips had the venom taken out of his fierce 25-yard strike by a deflection off McAuley, thus presenting Myhill with a simple save.
Lukaku continued to pose Albion’s biggest threat and he forced a fine near-post save out of Green after cutting in from the right and shooting from 20 yards.
Wright-Phillips had livened up Rangers at the other end and he saw another sharp strike from distance blocked by an Albion defender on 65, this time Tamas.
Albion looked to be in a spot of bother when Mackie raced onto Bothroyd’s ball down the right, but McAuley tracked the former Plymouth striker all the way and diverted his shot wide.
The Baggies had not been able to exert the same control on the game since the break and Clarke made his first change on 72, replacing Thomas with Odemwingie.
Thomas’ final contribution had seen him feed Morrison inside the box but the midfielder’s acute shot was deflected wide by Nedum Onuoha. From Morrison’s ensuing corner, Tamas looped another header onto the roof of Green’s net.
But it was Rangers who broke the deadlock 14 minutes from time. Bothroyd rose highest to plant a downward header goalwards from Faurlin’s corner and Myhill could only palm the ball inside his left-hand post.
However, it took a stunning Green save to keep Rangers ahead a minute later when he somehow kept out Rosenberg’s acrobatic volley from Lukaku’s centre.
Moments later, McAuley flashed a header across the face of goal from Morrison’s cross.
Rosenberg had his head in his hands again on 81 when he saw another fine effort, this time from the edge of the box, pushed away by Green.
The England keeper was proving the difference as he again pulled off a fine stop on 83 to keep out Popov’s ferocious 25-yard drive.
Green was it again on 89 to tip over Dorrans’ rising 25-yard rocket.
ALBION (4-4-2): Myhill; Jones, McAuley, Tamas (El Ghanassy 81), Popov; Dorrans, Thorne, Morrison (Reid 90), Thomas (Odemwingie 72); Rosenberg, Lukaku. Subs not used: Foster (gk), Dawson, Ridgewell, Olsson.
QPR (4-5-1): Green; Onuoha, Hill, Ferdinand, Ben Haim; Bothroyd (Mbia 81), Faurlin, Derry, Park, Mackie (90+1); Cisse (Wright-Phillips HT). Subs not used: Murphy (gk), Ephraim, Ehmer, Hulse.
GOALS: QPR – Bothroyd (76).
BOOKINGS: ALBION – Thomas (foul 51), Rosenberg (foul 78). QPR – Ben Haim (foul 18).
REFEREE: M Atkinson (West Yorkshire).
ALBION STARMAN: Gareth McAuley.