A first-half headed goal from Derby County midfielder John Eustace was the deciding factor in this hotly-contested clash between two of the Sky Bet Championship’s promotion hopefuls.
In a cagey first period, both sides were clearly reluctant to make mistakes, keeping the ball well in midfield, meaning significant chances were at a premium.
It wasn't until the twentieth minute when former England shot-stopper, Rob Green, flapped at a Will Hughes corner and his misdirected punch fell to Eustace, whose looping header back across goal dropped into the net despite Gary O’Neil’s best efforts to head it off the line.
The rest of the first half passed by fairly uneventfully, but the game opened up in the second period as Rangers went in search of an equaliser.
However, the Rams held firm and a hugely impressive display from the back-four frustrated the London club, who just couldn't break the home side down and were largely restricted to shots from range.
QPR pressed and pressed as the game wore on, but ultimately, Derby stood firm and saw the game out to record a hugely important win to continue their push for promotion.
The Rams almost got off to a flying start when a hopeful long pass over the top sent Patrick Bamford clear, but the ball took an age to drop and by the time the on-loan striker was able to pull the trigger, QPR defender Clint Hill had recovered in time to block the effort on goal.
In the tenth minute, Green was the first goalkeeper to be tested when Craig Bryson’s corner was headed clear. However, the ball dropped to Jamie Ward who attempted a first time volley which ricocheted off off Jake Buxton and towards the top corner of Green’s goal, drawing an excellent save from the former England ‘keeper.
Both sides were having good spells of possession but Derby were by far the most creative of the two promotion hopefuls, winning a number of corners and troubling the QPR defence while the London club were struggling to get a clear sight of the Rams goal.
Derby broke the deadlock after 20 minutes when Will Hughes’ corner fell to midfielder John Eustace who headed back across goal; the ball dropping just under the bar and into the right hand corner of QPR’s net.
The Rams were controlling the play, frustrating the visitors and tempers almost flared minutes later when Hughes was clattered by Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Joey Barton clashed with Bryson off the ball.
It wasn't until around the half hour mark that QPR had their first decent chance, a good pass sent Andrew Johnson into the box, but Buxton got across well to block the former England striker’s shot to concede a corner.
As the first half drew to a close, QPR had an excellent effort to equalise when a good left-wing cross from Gary O’Neill was met by the head of Aaron Hughes whose header back across goal was stopped by an excellent diving save from Lee Grant at full-stretch.
Rangers’ boss, Harry Redknapp introduced two attacking players at the interval – Modibo Maiga for Andrew Johnson, and Junior Hoilett for Gary O’Neill – in an attempt to change the game, but it was Derby who started the second half brighter.
In the 47th minute a fantastic diagonal ball from Bamford switched the play to Johnny Russell who controlled well before whipping in a cross, which Chirs Martin was inches away from turning in.
Moments later the Rams won a free kick on the right wing from which Will Hughes whipped an inviting, in-swinging delivery and Buxton leapt the highest to nod the ball narrowly wide of Green’s left post.
QPR begun to threaten, having good spells of possession around the Derby area, but the Rams' back four were well-organised and stood firm, increasing the frustration of the away side.
Just after the hour mark Joey Barton made space for himself on the edge of the area and struck a powerful left-footed volley, but Grant dived to his left, to make a fine save.
Derby then broke away at the other end of the pitch before a clumsy challenge from Barton on Russell lead to a booking for the former Newcastle player and a free kick from 25-yards which Bryson put narrowly wide.
The Rams then had to be at their best in defence as the visitors created a number of great chances to draw level. First, a good left wing cross was cleared by Chris Martin who headed the ball over his own bar and from the resulting corner a close range header had to be cleared off the line by left back Craig Forsyth; the home side eventually getting the ball clear through an excellent clearance from skipper, Richard Keogh.
Chances were coming thick and fast for both sides in an end-to-end period of football that was clearly important for both teams and when Martin intercepted a loose ball he exchanged passes with Craig Bryson before shooting over from the edge of the area.
Minutes later, Craig Forsyth ran from well within his own half beating several players before being bought down unfairly by Dunne who saw yellow, with Bryson’s free kick deflected over.
At the other end, QPR continued to push for an equaliser and after a clever chipped pass from Barton, Junior Hoilett powered a shot at Derby’s goal from the left hand side of the penalty area, but his effort struck the side netting.
QPR threw men forward in the remaining minutes of the match, desperate to find a way back into the game and earn a valuable point, but Derby were resolute in defence, winning every ball and throwing themselves in front of every shot.
The home supporters roared on their side, who had to soak up lots of pressure in the dying minutes, but all eleven players performed valiantly and were able to hold on for a massive three points.
Derby County: Grant (GK), Wisdom, Keogh, Buxton, Forsyth, Eustace, Hughes (Hendrick 68'), Bryson, Ward (Russell 40), Martin, Bamford (Sammon 81').
Subs not used: Legzdins (GK), Bennett, Whitbread, Thorne.
Queens Park Rangers: Green (GK), Hughes, Dunne, Hill, Assou-Ekotto, Kranjcar, Carroll (Jenas 78'), Barton, O'Neil (Hoilett 45'), Johnson (Maiga 45'), Doyle.
Subs not used: Murphy (GK), Traore, Onuoha, Henry.
Attendance: 23,495 (541 visiting supporters).