The champagne was quietly taken off the ice in the dressing room, the trophy was surreptitiously replaced in the boot of the official's car. No, QPR did not manage to host their long-awaited Premier League party last night, but they must have felt as if this battling draw at least allowed them to send out the official invites.
Three points would have returned them to the elite division after a 15-year absence, but it is fair to say Neil Warnock's men crossed the Severn Bridge happy. Twice they came back against the promotion rivals Cardiff City and twice they gave thanks for the talents of Adel Taarabt.
It took something to overshadow the contributions of Craig Bellamy and Jay Bothroyd, not to mention the frenzied atmosphere in a sun-blessed Welsh capital anticipating their own dream elevation. But so the Moroccan international stepped forward with a brace which sums up his season.
"Adel owed us a performance like that," said Warnock, as contrary as ever. "He's gone walkabout this last few games. Then again, he hasn't had much protection from referees – he suffered two tackles against Barnsley that were virtually manslaughter. He was brilliant today."
Doesn't Cardiff know it. First, in the sixth minute, they went ahead after a spectacular curler from the England international Bothroyd; four minutes later, Taarabt equalised with a similarly superlative strike. Then, in the 35th minute, Bellamy wrested back the advantage, crashing home Bothroyd's cross; 35 minutes later Taarabt struck again, turning Kevin McNaughton before nonchalantly steering it past Stephen Bywater.
The point means QPR – pending the outcome of their FA disciplinary hearing into the transfer of Alejandro Faurlin – effectively need only another point at home against Hull tomorrow. Meanwhile, Cardiff, who, in fairness, bossed this high-quality encounter for long periods, require rather more. They are now a point behind second-placed Norwich City, with the other "automatic" apparently destined to go to the wire.
Dave Jones, the Cardiff manager, expressed the bitter-sweet emotion. "There was no way they were coming here to have a party," he said. "They had champagne ready and the Championship trophy was here – yet we were not going to lie down. The players are deflated because we didn't win. But there's still a long way to go."Reuse content