Boro captain Grant Leadbitter makes QPR pay the penalty with last-gasp winner
Middlesbrough skipper Grant Leadbitter kept his cool to slot home a stoppage-time penalty and earn his side a dramatic late win over QPR at the Riverside.
The midfielder converted from the spot four minutes into time added on after QPR forward Leroy Fer was shown red for handling Daniel Ayala's overhead kick on the line.
It earned Aitor Karanka's men a 1-0 victory in a poor game which neither side deserved to win.
QPR interim boss Neil Warnock missed his side's trip north for "personal reasons", the club said in a statement. The 66-year-old was placed in charge of the Sky Bet Championship outfit after Chris Ramsey was sacked earlier this month, but he was absent for Friday's game and put his assistant Kevin Blackwell in charge as the Londoners went close to earning a point.
The game itself proved a fairly drab affair on a bitterly cold night on Teesside, although both sides created enough chances.
Fer had a early sight of goal but his fourth-minute effort only trickled safely to Dimi Konstantopoulos.
Boro had a great chance to take the lead in the 16th minute when Adam Clayton played a delightful ball in behind QPR's back line for David Nugent but just as the striker was about to pull the trigger, Nedum Onuoha managed to clear.
Nugent was a lick of paint away from getting on the scoresheet four minutes later when he brilliantly glanced Albert Adomah's ball in from right across the face of goal but it came off the post and safely into Rob Green's hands.
The visitors threatened at the other end in a rare attack five minutes before half-time. Leadbitter was booked for a foul on Fer - meaning the captain will miss Boro's trip to Huddersfield next week - and Konstantopoulos had to punch away Alejandro Faurlin's fierce free-kick.
Diego Fabbrini pressed forward in first-half stoppage-time for the hosts but his snatched effort at goal flew comfortably past Green to safety.
QPR started the second half brightly and nearly found the net within two minutes when Yun Suk-young's low cross from the left evaded Konstantopoulos but Matty Phillips could not get it over the line under pressure from Ben Gibson.
Phillips missed another glorious chance in the 56th minute. Faurlin's clever ball behind Boro's back four found Phillips but flashed his right leg at thin air as the home side were reprieved again.
Boro were struggling to play their usual attacking game but George Friend burst forward shortly after the hour-mark before unleashing a shot which flew wide of Green's right-hand post.
Visiting defender Grant Hall then went close to finding the opening goal when he met Faurlin's free-kick with a glancing header which bounced just wide.
The game was petering out to a boring draw until Ayala's late effort was handled by Fer and Leadbitter did the rest to grab a late win for Boro, who move to within a point of Championship leaders Hull and Brighton.