A MOMENT to forget for Dimi Konstantopoulos proved costly for Middlesbrough as two stoppage time goals secured a 3-1 victory for Queens Park Rangers.
With the score level after George Friend's first half opener had been cancelled out by Yossi Benayoun's equaliser seconds before the half-time whistle, disaster struck in stoppage time at the end of the game for Boro.
Just as the game looked like ending in a draw, Konstantopoulos somehow missed his kick on the edge of the box and Bobby Zamora nipped in to put the visitors ahead.
As Middlesbrough, whose players looked on in disbelief, pushed on Ravel Morrison then broke at the other end and added a third to pile the misery on Aitor Karanka's men.
The defeat leaves Boro 14 points shy of the Championship's top six, while Queens Park Rangers remain ten-points behind to the Championship's top two.
Friend was the man to put Middlesbrough ahead in the first half when he was rewarded for a persistent run in to the visitors' penalty area.
Despite an encouraging first half display, however, QPR pulled level in the dying seconds of the opening period. Yossi Benayoun powered in the equaliser.
When Joey Barton tested Dimi Konstantopoulos inside the opening 60 seconds it had looked like it could be a long afternoon for Middlesbrough.
But the big Greek goalkeeper made a fine double stop to deny Barton and the rebound from Tom Carroll and that paved the way for a decent opening half from the home side.
Left-back Friend was particularly impressive. He often got beyond his marker down the flank and it was from one of those that Middlesbrough took the lead.
When Friend burst in to the box, he took on one man and then a tackle from another ended up with the ball bouncing kindly off him. While Barton shouted for handball, the Boro defender continued and struck towards goal, where goalkeeper Robert Green could only help over the line.
That arrived in the 18th minute and after that Middlesbrough looked confident, even if Jacob Butterfield's distance drive, which was saved by Green, was the only real occasion they looked like adding to their lead.
QPR had done very little to threaten either, though, until Ravel Morrison's excellent run and shot was tipped over by Konstantopoulos in the final minute of the half. Seconds later QPR did level.
A Niko Kranjcar effort in to the area was half blocked, but it dropped beyond the Middlesbrough backline and Benayoun was on hand to power beyond the goalkeeper. There was a suspicion of offside, although he did appear level with the last man.
After the restart there was nothing to really trouble either Konstantopoulos or Green, but there was an interesting moment when a Kei Kamara spat with Morrison threatened to end in worse. Barton got involved too, along with many others, and the three players ended up with cautions.
Just before the late double, Friend volleyed just wide. Then Konstantopoulos missed a back pass, Zamora put QPR ahead and then Morrison secured the points.
MIDDLESBROUGH (4-3-2-1): Konstantopoulos; Varga, Omeruo, Gibson, Friend; Chalobah, Whitehead; Adomah, Butterfield (Tomlin 64), Kamara (Ledesma 88); Graham. Subs: (not used): Steele (gk), Williams, Main, Morris, Atkinson.
QUEENS PARK RANGERS (4-4-1-1): Green; Hughes, Hill, Onuoha, Suk-Young; Benayoun (O'Neil 75), Barton, Carroll, Kranjcar (Hoilett 63); Morrison; Keane (Zamora 64). Subs (not used): Simpson, Murphy, Donaldson, Petrasso.