Whether Manchester City had a stuttering start on their mind or QPR were insistent on playing the mischievous upstarts, as they did during the Premier League finale in May, is not clear but Roberto Mancini's team again made difficult work of winning at home.
Their intentions had been clear, bossing proceedings for the most part, but intricacy threatened to again be the undoing in a game they should have wrapped up long before Bobby Zamora's 59th-minute equaliser.
"We are not all that happy with performances at this moment in time," said City's assistant manager, David Platt. "We'd like to keep clean sheets, we haven't done that. We paid the penalty for not killing the game off. We are almost using these kind of games to get minutes into people's legs."
Jose Mourinho was a scouting spectator ahead of the Champions' League double between City and Real Madrid and will be encouraged that stubborn defensive work and counter-attacking performances are enough to unsettle City at the Etihad Stadium.
Yet, Mark Hughes's side were stretched almost immediately. Full-backs Fabio and Jose Bosingwa, both new signings for Rangers, were struggling to cope with the movement of David Silva and Samir Nasri. Edin Dzeko, preferred to Mario Balotelli up front, twice went close from corners, easily fending off the attentions of Anton Ferdinand. Fabio had to be alert at the back post to clear from the line.
It took just 16 minutes for City to claim their deserved lead. Carlos Tevez's miscued effort from yet another corner found Yaya Touré, who powered an effort past Rob Green. The goalkeeper offered a left wrist at the shot rather than a strong hand. Hardly ideal, given Julio Cesar is waiting in the wings to take the No 1 jersey as of next Saturday.
Such was City's dominance that the only time the visitors went close was thanks to Jack Rodwell. The midfielder threw himself into a tackle 50 yards from his own goal which nearly ended up looping beyond Joe Hart. Other than that momentary lapse in concentration, Rodwell looked the most assured he has been in sky blue, doing the simple things well and marshalling the obvious threat of Esteban Granero.
That is made much easier when a player of Touré's quality is prowling alongside you. The Ivorian's majestic sidestepping of Alejandro Faurlin in the middle of the park allowed Silva to point his creative radar in the direction of the overlapping Pablo Zabaleta.
The Spaniard beautifully picked out the right back, who was acting as a winger for the majority of proceedings, and his wicked left footed strike left Green hapless, but for the intervention of his crossbar.
For all their pleasing work in possession City were never safe with a slender lead. And when Andy Johnson, non-existent for the majority, picked Silva's pocket and drove into the box, firing a shot at Hart, it was a case of déjà vu.
Zamora gladly headed the parried shot home to equalise with more than a shade of Ricky Lambert for Southampton a fortnight ago at the same stadium. The goal came in exactly the same minute, the 59th.
But unlike the wobble against the Saints, City hit back almost straight away. Tevez's jinking run to the byline was not tracked properly, his cross found Dzeko, stealing a march on Ryan Nelsen and he headed past Green to restore City's lead.
Seemingly City are failing to learn from previous mistakes, allowing Nelsen an unmarked volley six yards out, but he failed to connect properly. Soon after, a communication mix-up between Hart and Joleon Lescott almost saw Nelsen clinch a dramatic point, but he could not reach the cross.
It was not until the third minute of injury time that the match was wrapped up; Tevez converted a wild Dzeko shot which looked to have been going wide. Sighs of relief, fingers had been chewed down to the bone. They shouldn't have been, but the Citizens are finding it uncharacteristically difficult to kill games off. Positively for Mancini, they are doing so while continuing to win points.
Platt added: "There is an expectancy from ourselves and supporters. We're not quite at the levels of last season. We were blowing teams away and keeping clean sheets."
Manchester City (4-2-3-1): Hart; Zabaleta (K Touré, 74), Kompany, Lescott, Kolarov; Y Touré, Rodwell; Nasri (Razak, 90), Tevez, Silva (Milner, 82); Dzeko
QPR (4-4-1-1): Green; Bosingwa, Ferdinand (Onuoha, 67), Nelsen, Fabio; Wright-Phillips, Granero (Cissé, 85), Faurlin (Dyer, 72) Park; Johnson; Zamora
Referee: Chris Foy
Man of the match: Y Touré (Manchester City)
Match rating: 7/10
The only summer signing on display for City was Jack Rodwell, who gave his most composed display thus far, while QPR fielded six new faces. The pick was Esteban Granero who has the ability to cause teams problems.