Middlesbrough marked Neil Warnock's first anniversary in charge by presenting his side with far too many gifts, as Queens Park Rangers swiftly restored the five-point lead at the top of the Championship that Swansea City had trimmed earlier in the day.
It extended their unbeaten run to 10 games, and they are without a defeat at this level since New Year's Day. While Rangers head for promotion, yesterday's unpredictable hosts sit an uneasy five points above the relegation zone – hence the serenade at the death by the jubilant travelling support: "We're going to Liverpool, you're going to Hartlepool."
Rangers never looked back after going into a fortunate 41st-minute lead, Adel Taarabt taking Alejandro Faurlin's pass inside the area to cut the ball back invitingly for Heidar Helguson, whose low shot deflected off defender Andrew Davies to beat Jason Steele.
The resurgent Icelander then found space to head home a Wayne Routledge cross after the hour to make it four goals in three games and a dozen in all.
"Heidar was ready for the knacker's yard last year, so they tell me," manager Warnock said. "But for me, he's always been a good player. People thought Kevin Davies at Bolton was knackered a few years ago and yet you'd have him in most of your teams now. For me, Heidar's just the same."
The day might have been different had Scott McDonald, presented with a clear run on goal by Paddy Kenny's miscued dead-ball kick after a minute, not seen his effort smothered by the Rangers keeper. Kenny was then largely untroubled en route to his 19th clean sheet.
Taarabt sealed victory with a confident penalty on 68 minutes, impounding the ball after he had been felled in the box by the substitute Merouane Zemmama. The manager was not bothered at Helguson being denied a hat-trick shot. "I didn't want him to, if I'm honest," Warnock said. "We've got to be professional and it was Taarabt's to take. And if Heidar had taken it and missed it, he'd have got battered by me."Reuse content