QPR 1-0 Derby County
Brilliant Bobby Zamora fired Rangers back into the Premier League – and he doesn’t know yet whether he will be at the club to see it.
The striker is out of contract in the summer but he was plumb in luck when he fired Hoops one and only shot on target in the final minute of the match.
Rangers had been under the cosh since Gary O’Neill was sent off on the hour, deemed the last man as he felled Johnny Russell from behind.
But backed by man of the match Richard Dunne, they held out against wave after wave in white, and got just one chance.
Junior Hoilett wriggled free on the byline and as Richard Keogh scuffed his clearance, sub Zamora fired left-footed into the corner.
It had been stalemate for the first hour.
Early on, O’Neill challenge on Will Hughes looked legitimate enough, but it mattered little when Russell fired the free-kick into the wall.
Charlie Austin took pot luck from 25 yards but his sighter cleared everyone bar Row K of the Derby fans.
Forsyth then lost marker Clint Hill on 25 minutes to head over at the back post. It looked a decent chance spurned, but the ball needed returning the way it came – and from a tight angle.
A couple of minutes later, Hughes screamed blue murder as he was baulked over by Dunne in the box, but the slick surface did for the Derby man as much as any outstretched arm from the Rs defender. All the same, it was hearts-in west London mouths for a second.
Rangers suffered a cruel blow just past the half hour when Niko Kranjcar pulled up with the hamstring tug that plagued the last part of his season to be replaced by Armand Traore.
Up till then, the Wembley veteran had been the biggest influence in red-and-black with a series of dinks and crosses that pushed Derby back.
The closest to a goal came from Derby five minutes before the break.
Jamie Ward’s free-kick from the left was intended for a connecting boot, but it evaded everyone and would have crept in at the back post had Green not watched it all the way to divert round the post.
Rangers best chance of the game came just before Zamora’s arrival off the bench, when Traore’s lightning pull-back saw Austin stab wide from 12 yards – and then disaster.
O’Neil sensed he was off even before Lee Mason reached for the red card.
Would Hill have got across to cover Russell’s break? Ref and assistant decided no, and O’Neil, who lost a tooth in the semi-final, lost his place on the pitch this time.
Sub Craig Bryson brought a scruffy shove round the corner from Green, but the keeper’s near-post parry from Chris Martin in the same place seconds later was top drawer.
It was panic stations on 75 minutes as Green again pushed away a Simon Dawkins shot following a slick Derby move, with Ward firing the rebound only to hit his own man Martin.
It looked as if the Rams would finally batter Rangers wall down, but the one thrust that mattered from Zamora has brought a return to the top flight after just one season away.
QPR, 4-5-1: Green, Simpson, Dunne, Hill (Henry 67), Onuoha, Doyle (Zamora 56), Barton, O’Neil, Kranjcar (Traore 33), Hoilett: Austin.
Subs (not used): Murphy, Benayoun, Hughes, Yun.