Wigan crashed to a 2-1 defeat in West London as QPR took control during a one-sided second half.
Goals from Matt Smith and Conor Washington sandwiched Omar Bogle’s equaliser from the penalty spot, gifting QPR three priceless points and sending Warren Joyce’s side back to the North West empty-handed.
The opening 45 minutes had been finely balanced with both sides playing their part in an entertaining contest. But Wigan ran out of steam in the second half as their sixth game in 16 days appeared to take its toll on the players.
It was a disastrous start for Latics as the hosts came out flying. After already testing Wigan down their left hand-side just moments earlier, down they came again. The visiting defence looked static as Conor Washington was allowed to pick out Smith in the area with ease.
With nobody challenging, it was a simple finish for the midfielder from 10 yards out. Gilks did get a hand to the shot but couldn’t prevent it hitting the back of the net.
QPR continued to pour the pressure on in the opening 10 minutes. Some sloppy defending from the usually reliable Stephen Warnock allowed the ball to be worked out to Ryan Manning on the edge of the box whose shot was just tipped over by Gilks.
Just as it looked like Wigan were in for a long night though, up popped that man Bogle. Some great footwork from the January signing saw him evade two Rangers defenders before being tripped by Joel Lynch to win Latics a penalty; the QPR defender going into the book in the process.
There was a slight delay in play as QPR’s Grant Hall – who later hobbled off - received treatment but it didn’t put Bogle off who brushed himself down and coolly slotted home to level the game on 15 minutes.
The opening period was certainly a sign of things to come with both sides digging in to produce an entertaining, end-to-end affair.
The swirling wind meant that long balls became a menace for defenders but Jake Buxton and Dan Burn stood tall for Latics.
While both sides seemed intent on putting a show on for the 12,101 (including 326 Wiganers) inside Loftus Road, so did referee James Linington who seemed intent on blowing for almost every 50-50 challenge.
Bogle was the first Latics player into the book for a late challenge on Lynch before a very soft booking for Will Grigg.
Power was the next to be carded after he brought down Kazenga Lualua. The Latics midfielder appeared to get the ball but was judged to have taken the man first.
Both sides continued their battling efforts as the half came to a close with Bogle a constant threat, almost giving Latics the lead with a curling effort that was headed clear by Nedum Onuoha. QPR ‘keeper Alex Smithies was then at full stretch to deny a thumping Buxton header from Jamie Hanson’s corner.
Back came QPR though, who were outplaying Latics on the deck with some neat passing play. With seconds to go before the break, Gilks had to palm away a dangerous Smith effort.
The second half started as lively as the first with Latics’ obligatory booking falling to Hanson for a daft challenge in the centre of the park.
As QPR began to build some early momentum, Wigan broke through Ryan Tunnicliffe. The midfielder played a lovely ball to Bogle whose goal-bound effort was put behind.
And from that resulting corner, Buxton rose again to meet the ball with a fierce header which Smithies parried before smothering up.
Sadly that was about as close as Latics came as QPR took control of the game.
Substitute Lualua was a real danger for the hosts with a number of darting runs. Burn and Buxton had to meet cross after cross as Wigan’s defence stood tall… but it eventually relented on the hour mark.
A well-worked move saw the ball at Washington’s feet 20 yards from goal and he fired a great effort into the bottom corner to restore QPR’s lead.
You’d have hoped Wigan would have thrown the kitchen sink at their hosts but it just didn’t happen with Rangers looking more likely to find a third than Latics an equaliser.
Buxton was the next into the book for a late tackle on Lualua before substitute Yeni Ngbakoto’s long range effort was just wide of the mark.
Wigan threw on Gabriel Obertan and Mikael Mandron with Will Grigg and Hanson making way. They did begin to ask more questions in the last 10 minutes but didn’t really trouble the QPR goal like they needed to.
As news of Burton’s impressive draw at Derby filtered through, the full-time whistle left Latics two points adrift of Bristol City in the relegation zone and just a point above Blackburn.
However, both their rivals have two games in hand on Wigan.