A brace from Ebere Eze, including another controversial penalty, gave Queens Park Rangers the points at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium.
A goal in either half from the Rs young attacker gave Mark Warburton’s side the win, but for the second time in a week it was a refereeing decision that was the main talking point for the Lilywhites.
Eze had fired home on the rebound after Declan Rudd had made a save from the No.10 after 17 minutes, but the North End keeper was then harshly adjudged to have brought down Marc Pugh at the second half’s mid-point by match official Andy Davies and the Rangers man converted from 12 yards for his second of the game.
Manager Alex Neil had Andrew Hughes back for the first time since the Blackburn Rovers game and he slotted in at left back, with Joe Rafferty moving over to the right to give balance to the back four, but they found themselves behind just after the quarter hour mark.
A long ball right through the middle of the pitch allowed Eze to collect and run into the box, fired hard low, only for North End’s No.1 to make a fine low block, but the ball went straight back to the QPR man who collected and fired low into the bottom left corner with nothing the PNE goalkeeper could do.
The visitors grew stronger as the half went on and had their best spell in the ten minutes after the half hour mark. Firstly skipper Alan Browne curled a shot from 25 yards just over bar after long ball from Rudd was flicked on by Sean Maguire and laid off by Jayden Stockley for the captain.
Then on 35 minutes a great block by home centre half Grant Hall to denied Maguire after he had been threaded in by Ben Pearson after a superb break by the Lilywhites’ No.4, running 60 yards from his own half.
After the break the yellows were building up a head of steam and had a good spell of pressure, with Maguire getting shot blocked by Hall and Browne getting two dangerous balls into the box cleared in the opening six minutes.
Irishman Maguire then saw a header from a Rafferty cross from the right deflected wide for a corner. The manager went for the jugular with three attacking changes, Billy Bodin, David Nugent and Josh Harrop all thrown on, but at the mid-way point of the second period the controversy happened.
The ball was played into the box by Eze for Marc Pugh, but Andre Hughes got their first stretching out and pushing the ball. Rudd then came out and got a foot on the ball, but Pugh followed in and went down. Referee Davies pointed to the spot, but then went to talk to his assistant, however, his initial decision stood and Eze converted into the bottom right corner.
North End thought they should have had a penalty of their own with 13 minutes to go as Bodin went down in the box after a push from Toni Leistner, but this time there was no penalty and, to compound matters, moments later Rs stopper Joe Lumley saved as Bodin went through and shot on the half volley from Nugent’s knock down from 22 yards, a brilliant effort that somehow the keeper got down to, to tip around the post and Warburton’s side held on for the win.
QPR line-up: Lumley, Kane, Hall (c), Cameron, Pugh, Hugill, Eze (Amos, 87), Manning, Osayi-Samuel, Wells (Scowen, 67), Leistner. Subs not used: Barnes, Wallace, Smith, Ball, Chair.
PNE line-up: Rudd, Rafferty, Hughes, Pearson, Huntington, Storey, Barkhuizen (Nugent, 62), Browne (c), Stockley (Bodin, 57), Potts (Harrop, 62), Maguire. Subs not used: Hudson, Clarke, Bayliss, Ledson.
Attendance: 12,179 (1,305 PNE fans)
Referee: Mr A Davies