Two goals in four second half minutes gave QPR the three points in a pulsating Championship encounter at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium.
Lyndon Dykes had opened the scoring for Mark Warburton’s side, before Emil Riis’ eighth of the season levelled matters at the interval.
Josh Earl’s first career goal put PNE in front, but strikes from Jimmy Dunne and Ilias Chair gave the hosts the win.
Head coach Frankie McAvoy had made one change going into the game, with Ali McCann coming in for Ben Whiteman in the midfield, but he unfortunately suffered an injury mid-way through the first half, with club captain Alan Browne replacing him.
The injury, that appeared to be an ankle problem after a good tackle on the edge of the penalty area, came either side of the first half goals.
The hosts had opened the scoring at a sodden Loftus Road with the first effort on goal for either team; Scottish international striker Dykes forcing home from the edge of the six-yard box, after a left-wing cross from Chris Willock got caught underneath Greg Cunningham, the forward able to kick it from under the Irishman’s legs into the bottom right hand corner, 17 minutes in.
Daniel Iversen could do nothing about that goal, but was on hand to make an excellent stop on 23 minutes as Willock came in from the left flank, broke into the box and forced a low save from the Dane.
McCann was replaced on 25 minutes and within 90 seconds PNE were back level. It was a great move from the back with Cunningham finding Earl, who fed it onto Sean Maguire on the left, just inside the Rangers half. The No.24 played a sublime ball with his left foot in behind the home defence for Riis to run onto, take a touch and feed the ball under Seny Dieng into the goal, much to the delight of the 1,000-plus PNE fans behind the opposite goal.
The Lilywhites were forced into a second change at the interval, with Patrick Bauer replaced by Liam Lindsay at the heart of the North End backline, as the rain continued to poor in West London.
And within a minute of the start of the half they were ahead through a brilliant move. It started with a ball into Riis, who fed it off to Sepp van den Berg, who ran forward, found Ledson, who turned the ball over the top for Maguire. He then killed the ball dead and drilled it across the six-yard box for Earl, in a poacher’s position, to fire home from close range for his first professional goal.
The R’s should have been down to ten men just before the hour mark when Sean Maguire was stamped on by Rob Dickie, something that would surely be looked at after the game, as referee Jeremy Simpson hadn’t seen anything, but the cameras caught it clearly.
Maguire, who was putting in a magnificent performance leading the line, saw a shot deflected off the head of Jimmy Dunne and behind for a corner, as the reds looked to kill the game off mid-way through the second half, but the home side drew level as Dunne poked home after Willock’s free-kick into the box.
Maguire’s afternoon was over after the goal, looking like a third injury of the afternoon for McAvoy’s men, Brad Potts replacing the frontman after his impressive display.
But it was 3-2 moments later to Rangers when Chair fired home after a loose ball, when substitute Charlie Austin had been denied by Iversen – the game turned on its head in the space of four minutes.
An excellent diagonal ball from left to right by Ledson found a run by van den Berg in behind the R’s wing back, but he couldn’t quite divert his volley on target as PNE pushed to level the game up once again as the tie entered the final few minutes.
Daniel Johnson was twice denied by blocks in the box after efforts from inside the ‘D’ as the game entered four minutes of stoppage time, with the hosts trying to add another on the counter, but it remained 3-2.
QPR line-up: Dieng, Dickie, Barbet, Johansen (c) (Amos, 69), Dykes, Chair, Ball, Gray (Austin, 69), Dunne, Willock (De Wijs, 80), Odubajo. Subs not used: Archer, Kakay, Dozzell, Adomah.
PNE line-up: Iversen, Storey, Bauer (Lindsay, 46), Cunningham, van den Berg, McCann (Browne, 25), Ledson, Earl, Johnson, Maguire (Potts, 71), Riis. Subs not used: Rudd, Sinclair, Potts, Murphy.
Attendance: TBC (1,032 PNE fans)
Referee: Mr J Simpson