Shaun Maloney netted a free-kick in the final seconds of injury time to give Wigan a 1-1 draw at fellow relegation battlers QPR that landed a hammer blow to Harry Redknapp’s chances of keeping the Hoops up.
The West London club went down to 10 men after 21 minutes when Bobby Zamora was shown a straight red card for kicking Jordi Gomez in the head.
For all their possession Wigan lacked a cutting edge and it looked like QPR had snatched a vital win when Loic Remy hammered a fantastic first-time effort into the top left from the edge of the area.
But, with the fourth minute of injury time about to pass, Stephane MBia gave away a free-kick on the edge of the box, and Maloney curled a superb effort into the top right to silence Loftus Road.
A win would take taken QPR on to 26 points, just five short of safety and four behind 18th-placed Wigan; as it stands they are seven points behind the Latics, who stay in the drop zone behind Sunderland on goal difference but have a game in hand.
It was a dramatic end to a largely uninspiring affair as Wigan, who flattered to deceive despite having an extra man for 74 minutes, showed their dependency on Arouna Kone, who had a quiet game up front.
QPR started well as Andros Towsend impressed with his drive and skill, creating half-chances for Zamora and Remy, who also hit the bar with a fantastic half-volley.
But the match took a major twist when, on 20 minutes, Zamora launched into a dreadful head-high challenge on Gomez, leaving the Spaniard in a heap and correctly dismissed by Phil Dowd after consulting with his assistant.
Wigan are better than most at keeping the ball, and for the rest of the half they dominated possession. They created some chances too, as Callum McManaman drilled an effort inches wide, while James McCarthy forced a smart stop from Julio Cesar.
QPR were still dangerous on the break though, and it took a fantastic last-gasp challenge from Emerson Boyce to deny Remy a clear run at goal after the Frenchman sprung the offside trap.
Nedum Onuoha replaced the injured Armand Traore at half-time and, as in the 3-2 defeat at Fulham last week, the former England U21 defender used his pace to effect as Wigan struggled to break the Hoops down, despite continuing to boss possession.
Indeed, QPR fashioned a couple of decent chances, as Remy headed wide from an Adel Taarabt cross, while Townsend sent a free-kick just over.
Townsend and substitute Taarabt – on for the ineffectual Junior Hoilett – were now taking the game to Wigan, who brought on striker Franco Di Santo in attempt to sharpen their blunted edge.
Opportunities were still few and far between, although in the latter stages Wigan upped the ante as James McCarthur headed straight at Julio Cesar after Gomez picked him out.
It got even more dramatic when, after a Wigan free-kick was cleared, MBia launched into a driving run before sliding a cute pass to Remy. The Frenchman is a getter of great goals but this was one of his better efforts as he launched a stunning drive from 20 yards that flew past a dumbstruck Joel Robles into the left corner.
Loftus Road was bouncing and, when a late Gomez free-kick hit the wall, it seemed they had scraped a memorable win.
But in the dying seconds of injury time Dowd penalised a clumsy MBia challenge and Maloney – so often Wigan’s classiest player – made no mistake from the edge of the box, although he was helped by a poor QPR wall that saw Taarabt turn his back.
We will never know if it would have made a difference, but the defensive apathy that has summed up QPR’s season looks to have plunged them even deeper into a mire that could well drag them back into the Championship.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Andros Townsend (QPR) – Superb with and without the ball, he is QPR’s driving force going forward and Spurs will welcome his enthusiasm when he returns from his loan.
QPR: Cesar 7, Bosingwa 6, Samba 7, Hill 7, Traore 6, Townsend 8, Jenas 6, Mbia 7, Hoilett 5, Remy 7, Zamora 4; Subs: Onuoha 7, Taarabt 5, Mackie N/A
WIGAN: Robles 6, Alcaraz 6, Scharner 7, Boyce 7, Figueroa 6, McCarthy 6, Maloney 7, Gomez 6, Beausejour 6, McManaman 7, Kone ; Subs: Di Santo 6, McArthur 6, Espinoza N/A