A goal in each half saw Derby County fall to defeat in the Capital as Queens Park Rangers returned to winning ways with a 2-0 win.
Despite a strong start by the visitors, the Rams struggled for large periods of the first 45 minutes, which was capitalised on by QPR as Tjaronn Chery opened the scoring with a volley from six-yards out.
Better in the second half, Darren Wassall, the Derby Head Coach, threw caution to the wind, but could not quite find a way through their resolute and stubborn hosts as Gabriele Angella converted a free kick at the far post to put the seal of approval on the result.
On a freezing night in the Capital, Derby started brightly, showing great composure in possession as well as a great work ethic to force Rangers into early mistakes – a pattern that would soon reverse as the half grew older.
Within the first 10 minutes, however, both sides registered early notable opportunities as Tom Ince, firstly, had Alex Smithies scrambling across his goal with a long range effort, before the menacing Junior Hoilett fired into the arms of Scott Carson after dispossessing Marcus Olsson in the final third.
An entertaining start descended into a scrap as both sides struggled to create openings.
Sebastian Polter was next to try his luck midway through the half as he easily turned Jason Shackell, but the German forward drove his shot narrowly wide.
Derby failed to respond to the early warning and found themselves behind three minutes later as Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s side broke the deadlock at Loftus Road.
Neat play in between the lines saw James Perch set away down the left with time and space to look up and pick a cross. That’s just what the 30-year-old did as he clipped a ball towards the six-yard box for Chery to swivel and volley beyond Carson.
With the goal behind them, QPR maintained their momentum for the rest of the ha;f and continued to take the contest to a Derby side which littered their play with errors as they struggled to hold on to the ball.
The hosts’ next chance came after a ball forward from Jamie Hanson was seized upon, but Chery this time sent his effort from range wide of Carson’s left side post.
Things only slightly improved in the early stages of the second half as Derby returned to the pitch with the Wassall’s words ringing in their ears.
Chris Martin, who had been largely isolated for most of the game, looped an effort into the arms of Smithies after cracking a volley into the turf, but that aside, Hasselbaink’s side were comfortable.
Wassall threw caution to the wind and introduced Darren Bent in place of Craig Bryson, a move that saw his side craft a few more openings.
Ince saw a deflected a free kick fly narrowly over after it had deceived Smithies, whilst Hanson lashed a first time shot from range well wide as the game approached the 70 minute mark.
Bent, himself, forced Smithies into his next save as he connected with Cyrus Christie’s cut back and sent it towards the near post as the contest began to become more stretched.
At the other, Hoilett, after cutting inside from the right, tamely shot straight at Carson, but with four minutes remaining Hasselbaink’s cemented their victory with a crucial second goal.
After a foul on the left, Matt Phillips delivered a teasing ball into the box that was simply bundled into the back of the net by an unmarked Angella at the back post - bringing an air of relief around Loftus Road.
Derby eagerly searched for a miracle immediately, but following one of their rare slick passing moves of the contest, Ince fired into the arms of Smithies after Martin laid the ball into his path.
With the raining pouring, the final whistle blew as the Rams tasted defeat on a night where only one of the Championship’s top six managed to secure all three points.
Queens Park Rangers: Smithies, Onuoha (C), Angella, Hill, Perch, Faurlin, Hoilett, Henry, Phillips, Chery (Mackie, 76), Polter
Substitutes not used: Ingram, Konchesky, Tozser, Petrasso, El Khayati, Washington
Derby County: Carson, Christie, Keogh (C), Shackell, Olsson; Hanson, Bryson (Bent, 67), Butterfield (Hendrick, 56); Ince, Russell (Blackman, 79), Martin
Substitutes not used: Grant, Buxton, Johnson, Weimann
Attendance: 14,049 (1,295 Derby supporters)Tweets by @ dcfcofficial