Unlike their oval-ball brethren up the road, it was three minutes from time before either of these sides scored and it was Queen's Park Rangers who landed the dramatic blow. Ray Jones, an England Under-19 international, slid in a delicious low right-wing cross from fellow substitute Nicky Ward to condemn Cardiff City to their first home Championship defeat.
Rangers, with 10 goals in their previous three games, toiled well to continue their giant strides under John Gregory, but the manager admitted: "We stole it in the end. We're the division's two highest-scoring teams, yet all the signs were that it was going to be nil-nil. It's fantastic for us to come and beat the leaders.''
The Cardiff manager Dave Jones described it as Cardiff's worst performance of 2006-07; they were made to look sluggish by Rangers' slick work.
Jimmy Smith curled wide and Dexter Blackstock glanced a header off target from a delivery by Lee Cook, who then made space for a 20-yarder Neil Alexander clawed round his post. Cardiff had still barely threatened when Alexander hit a hurried clearance against Blackstock and was relieved the striker slipped as he shaped to shoot.
Jones gave a League debut to Chris Gunter such a fan of the club that he travels on a supporters' coach to games when not playing. The 17- year-old hardly put a foot wrong at right-back while Kevin McNaughton, on the left, got forward well, a tremendous 55th-minute advance taking him past two opponents before a carefully shaped effort from 25 yards smacked against the bar.
Only belatedly did Michael Chopra stretch Rangers' defence. Paul Parry netted from his pass after the offside flag had gone up, then Zesh Rehman survived a tangle of legs with Darren Purse that had Ninian Park's smallest League crowd so far baying for a penalty. Rangers' third successive victory lifted them five places to 13th while Cardiff's third defeat in six will have more sceptical fans wondering if the bubble is bursting.
Cardiff City (4-4-2): Alexander; Gunter, Purse, Loovens, McNaughton; Parry (Kamara, 82), Scimeca, McPhail, Ledley; Thompson, Chopra. Substitutes not used: Howard (gk), Johnson, Cooper, Campbell.
Queens Park Rangers (4-4-2): Royce; Mancienne, Rehman, Stewart, Bignot; Ainsworth (Ward, 15) Bailey, Smith, Cook; Nygaard, Blackstock (R Jones, 65). Substitutes not used: P Jones (gk), Milanese, Baidoo.
Referee: P Joslin (Nottinghamshire).Reuse content