Kemar Roofe’s deadly second-half hat-trick earned Leeds United a 3-1 win from an eventful clash at Queens Park Rangers.
Roofe broke the resistance of Ian Holloway’s side with two finishes in five second-half minutes and rounded off his hat-trick in injury-time after a late error from Felix Wiedwald threatened to gift QPR a point.
The goalkeeper allowed a late punt from Pawel Wszolek to bounce over his head and QPR, who fought back from 2-0 down in injury-time to earn a 2-2 draw with Brentford in their last home game, sensed another unlikely recovery on the cards.
Roofe, though, finished on the counter-attack as QPR pressed for an equaliser, killing the contest in the fifth added minute.
The forward was included in Thomas Christiansen’s starting line-up after Pablo Hernandez missed the trip to Loftus Road with a hamstring strain and he switched from the left wing to a role up front following a first-half injury to Caleb Ekuban.
Roofe’s hanging header broke the deadlock on 63 minutes as Gjanni Alioski picked him out between two QPR defenders and he made no mistake again when Pawel Cibicki, Ekuban’s replacement, set him up with a cross from the right wing.
Ekuban had earlier seen United’s best chance in a tight first half, glancing Luke Ayling’s cross over the crossbar, but the Ghanaian was lost to injury on 38 minutes, giving Cibicki his league debut.
Struggling Rangers last claimed a league victory in October and they made little impression on Leeds’ defence, despite having the better of the opening half.
A timely interception by Ayling stopped former Leeds striker Matt Smith from tucking away Wszolek’s early cut-back and Conor Washington drove a shot wide after taking down a chipped pass with his chest.
Roofe almost nicked a goal at the very end of the half as the ball burst through QPR’s defence but Jake Bidwell recovered with a brilliant tackle as Roofe shaped to shoot. Referee Chris Kavanagh waved away appeals for a pull on Roofe’s shirt.
Leeds, however, turned the screw impressively after half-time and QPR had no answer to Roofe’s rapid double until Wiedwald misjudged the bounce of Wszolek’s forward ball on 91 minutes, failing with a desperate attempt to claw it away from his goalline.
With the pressure suddenly on, Roofe drilled in a low effort at the death to see Leeds home and keep the club in touch with the Championship’s top six.
Queens Park Rangers: Smithies, Wszolek, Onuoha, Robinson, Bidwell (Sylla 71), Freeman, Luongo, Scowen (Hall 77), Chair (Osayi-Samuel 64), Smith, Washington. Subs (not used): Lumley, Cousins, Manning, Wheeler, Sylla.
Leeds United: Wiedwald, Ayling, Cooper, Jansson, Berardi, Phillips, Vieira (Pennington 80), Alioski (O’Kane 70), Saiz, Roofe, Ekuban (Cibicki 38). Subs (not used): Lonergan, Shaughnessy, Borthwick-Jackson, Anita.