QPR bowed out of the EFL Cup with honour intact after a narrow defeat to Premier League Sunderland.
For 10 second half minutes Rangers were in dreamland after Sandro’s sumptuous half-volley gave them the lead against David Moyes’ Wearsiders.
The dream though was shattered when former Manchester United man Paddy McNair became the unlikely hero for the visitors, scoring twice in the last 20 minutes.
Eight days on from their Newcastle mauling the early signs were ominous as with just 11 minutes played Whatmore waltzed through some flimsy tackles and only an outstanding save by Matt Ingram low to his left kept them level.
However, prompted by Jordan Cousins, for once playing centrally and the impish Pawel Wszolek wide on the right Rangers settled and could have led themselves when a suspiciously offside-looking Abdenasser El-Khayati forced a good parry from Jordan Pickford.
Back at the other end, Didier Ndong chased an apparent lost cause, catching it on the dead-ball line and passing back to the edge of the box where Jan Kirchoff’s low drive again brought the best out of Ingram.
After the break Sunderland were closer still when McNair’s shot deflected off a defender and had to be headed off the line by Joel Lynch, Papy Djilobodji going close again for the visitors from the corner.
Rangers responded with Conor Washington’s far post header inches wide before breaking the deadlock seconds before the hour when a corner from the right was headed back by Lynch in to the path of Sandro whose left-foot half volley screamed into the bottom corner.
Rangers threw bodies in the way of the onslaught that followed, but following a triple substitution Sunderland drew level.
Whatmore’s pass created the danger and as the home defence hesitated McNair pounced to slide the ball under the advancing Ingram.
Sebastian Polter made his return from injury in place of Sylla on 73 minutes, but the tide had turned and 10 minutes from time Sunderland were in front.
Ndong found acres of room out on the right and though Ingram did well to palm out his shot, it fell to McNair who fired unerringly into the corner.