Goals either side of half-time gave Sheffield United back-to-back league wins as QPR returned to the capital empty handed.
Strikes from Richard Stearman and John Lundstram followed up the 2-1 derby victory over Leeds United as the Blades moved to within a point of the play-offs.
Luke Freeman made for a tetchy final 20-minutes when he pulled one back for QPR, but United managed to hold on to win 2-1 and claim their second consecutive victory at Bramall Lane.
The win comes ahead of a testing away trip to Hull City on Friday, with boss Chris Wilder hoping for a good run of results ahead of March’s international break.
It was a result that filled the boss with pride heading into the final quarter of the season.
He said: “I thought we played well.
“We let them back in the match.
“They did a job on us down there [in the reverse fixture] and they did a job on Wolves the week before.
“We have to be a bit more structured. We just have to be a bit better on the counter-attack.
“The key is to experience the division.”
The Blades made one change from the side that beat Leeds in their last league outing with Lundstram replacing John Fleck, who served the final match of his two game suspension.
Ricky Holmes and Manchester United loanee James Wilson were forced to sit out through injury, with Leon Clarke returning after missing the Blades’ narrow FA Cup defeat to Leicester last Friday to partner skipper Billy Sharp up front.
Despite the league table looking somewhat unhealthy for the visitors, their form of late has been anything but. A deserved 2-0 win against Bolton followed a narrow defeat at table-toppers Wolves, and the Blades know better than anyone the sort of test a trip to the Molineux poses after their recent 3-0 loss.
And it was Ian Holloway’s men who rattled the nerves of the hosts early on, with Chris Basham missing the ball on the far side and Clarke swiping at fresh air while defending a corner in the opening minute.
But when Lundstram met Enda Stevens’ cut-back from the by-line he, along with the majority of Bramall Lane, fully expected the net to bulge, but the finger tips of Alex Smithies was enough to cull the danger before Nedum Onuoha reacted quickest to block Clarke’s follow-up on the line.
Sharp was denied a penalty after Josh Scowen bumped the frontman, but he had an opportunity a minute later when he turned Onuoha and chipped the on-rushing Smithies, although the poor execution saw the ball drop wide of the far upright from distance.
The first goal arrived midway through the half with Stearman sliding in at the far post to break the deadlock for the hosts. Mark Duffy’s corner caused havoc in the box and a deft flick from Clarke fell neatly to the centre-back who poked home his second of the season from a couple of yards out.
United keeper, Jamal Blackman, whose error cost the Blades in the reverse fixture at Loftus Road, soon had Stevens to thank for retaining the advantage as the wing-back headed off the line after the on-loan Chelsea shot-stopper flapped at a corner.
A wild shot from Conor Washington summed up the visitor’s frustrations as they failed to capitalise on a shaky start by United, and as half-time approached it appeared a regroup would benefit Holloway’s men.
And it didn’t take long for them to test the gloves of Blackman as straight after the restart he was forced into a double save, first from Luke Freeman and then Washington on the rebound.
However, the Blades made QPR pay the highest price as Lundstram doubled their lead on 50 minutes. A teasing cross along the face of goal by Sharp gave the unmarked midfielder plenty of time to pick his spot at the back post and slam low past Smithies.
An uphill battle for the visitors, then, and a stark reminder about how quickly fortunes can change.
It was almost three shortly after as Baptiste was forced to turn George Baldock’s cross wide with Sharp breathing down his neck. The defender gave the Hoops a lifeline as another goal would have buried the London side.
It was a lifeline they took as Freeman halved the deficit shortly after the hour mark, coolly firing home past the advancing Blackman as he cut the United defence in two after a dazzling solo run.
It prompted a change in shape for the visitors as Holloway switched from a back three to a four after the introduction of Paul Smith attempted to push QPR further up the pitch.
Make life uncomfortable for the Blades was the mission, and it certainly unsettled the Blades who began to lose their way in midfield.
The removal of Duffy and Sharp for Ryan Leonard and Clayton Donaldson looked to arrest the temporary sloppiness, and the latter had a chance to regain the two-goal cushion but he got his feet in a twist before running it out of play.
A last throw of the dice for QPR couldn’t muster a leveller as Matt Smith’s header was on-target but held comfortably by Blackman.
It left boss Ian Holloway to rue a night of missed opportunities as they returned south with nothing to show for their efforts. He said: “We played a very good team.
“That’s what caring for a football club does.
“I’ve got to say they were clinical.
“We managed to come back and make a fight of it.”
Sheffield United: Blackman; Basham, Stearman, O’Connell; Baldock, L Evans, Lundstram (Lafferty, 84’), Stevens; Duffy (Leonard, 74’); Clarke, Sharp (C) (Donaldson, 74’). Subs not used: Wright, Eastwood, C Evans, Brooks.
QPR: Smithies; Baptiste (P Smith, 66’), Onuoha (C), Lynch; Wszolek, Scowen, Luongo (Eze, 87′), Freeman, Bidwell; M Smith, Washington (Osayi-Samuel, 81’). Subs not used: Subs not used: Furlong, Ingram, Perch, Chair.
Referee: Oliver Langford
Bookings: Sheffield United: None
Scorers: Sheffield United: Richard Stearman (27’), John Lundstram (50’)
QPR: Luke Freeman (63’)
HT Score: 1-0
FT Score: 2-1
Man of the Match: John Lundstram (Sheffield United)