THE decorators may have to be called in to spruce up the away dressing room at Loftus Road after Mick McCarthy admitted to peeling the paint off the walls during a half-time team talk that would have made even Peter Reid blush.

The former Sunderland boss turned the air blue during the now infamous documentary 'Premier Passions' but the current incumbent of the Stadium of Light hot-seat upstaged him on Saturday after one of worst 45 minutes during his time at the helm.

QPR could and should have scored more than the one goal they gained from Danny Shittu's 22nd minute header, such was their dominance over a side that had won their previous six matches.

Having already hauled Jeff Whitley off as early as the 42nd minute, the Northern Irishman clearly feeling the effects of back-to-back internationals, McCarthy couldn't wait to get his team in at the break.

After regaling the media with the fruitiest of adjectives to describe his thoughts on the opening period, the Championship's Manager of the Month, said: "I threw my notes away because all the notes I had were worthless.

"We had not competed, we had not passed it, we had not done anything that has got us into the position we are in.

"So I used a plethora of bad language then got down to discussing how we could improve things."

With those words clearly ringing in their ears, Sunderland emerged from the tunnel a team transformed, got themselves back in the game within a minute through Andy Welsh, took a stranglehold via substitute Chris Brown then capped off a fine comeback with a third from Julio Arca.

"I just thought we were getting a little bit bullied, everything was coming back to us and we were doing a bit of a screaming act," McCarthy said. "Then it's turned around. Browny has come on and he has knocked a couple about and they are doing a bit of a screaming act. We have played a lot better with him on the park."

They couldn't have played much worse, it must be said.

From the first whistle Sunderland found themselves out-thought, out-battled and out-passed by a Rangers side desperate to prove the critics wrong and make the play-offs.

Martin Rowlands tested Thomas Myhre in the first minute and the scene was set with the play almost exclusively in the Wearsiders' half. Former Chelsea striker Paul Furlong almost put the Hoops ahead but just failed to make contact with Rowlands' corner after Myhre flapped and missed.

If that was a warning, Sunderland did not heed it and in the 22nd minute Shittu steamed in at the far post from another corner to direct a powerful header past the Norwegian custodian.

Even that did not spark the Cats into action and so it was down to McCarthy to act. Whitley was replaced by Brown and Stephen Elliott, playing up front with Marcus Stewart, dropped behind the front two.

The response was not immediate, however, and with more luck QPR could have gone in three up and with the points almost certainly in the bag.

A raking ball out of midfield from Gino Padula gave Furlong the chance to test Caldwell's legs and when the striker got the wrong side of the defender he launched a blistering shot that looked destined for the net until Myhre intervened to deflect it wide.

From the corner man-mountain George Santos headed goalwards but his celebrations were put on ice when team-mate Dean Sturridge, a replacement for the injured Rowlands, got in the way.

McCarthy must have breathed a huge sigh of relief at that and as the teams came off there was no doubt the surname of the aforementioned goalscorer was about to hit the fan.

It had the desired effect - Welsh drawing the sides level with a low volley past Royce within 60 seconds of the restart.

The belief began to ebb away from Rangers and they were thankful for Padula's intervention when Stewart set his sights on goal.

A minute later Breen found Brown, who chested the ball down on the edge of the area but his shot was off target.

Danny Collins replaced Welsh for Sunderland and Cureton replaced substitute Sturridge for QPR, and shortly afterwards McCarthy's men took the lead.

Some incisive passing down the left saw Dean Whitehead centre for Brown, who fired past Royce for his second goal in two games.

The former Sunderland season ticket holder then turned provider when he released Stewart. The club's star striker bore down on goal but his touch was lacking and he hit the ball too far ahead of himself and allowed Royce to rush out. However, the keeper could only halt the ball's forward motion and when Stewart, prostrate, stabbed goalwards Arca was on hand to sidefoot over the line.

At this point Sunderland were not to know that arch-rivals Wigan were losing, but if they do return to the Premiership this victory carved from adversity may well be the key.

McCarthy takes his men to the JJB Stadium tomorrow night, but although a win would put them eight points clear at the top, the boss is not counting his chickens.

Asked if the finishing line was in sight, he said: "It's in sight and it's miles away. There's a sheet of glass up in front of you; you keep trying to touch it but there's something there stopping you.

"There's 18 points there to play for, for us and the rest of them. We have got to go to Wigan on Tuesday, we have got to go to Ipswich, we have got Stoke to play, we have got West Ham to play, we have got Reading to play.

"Our games are far from easy but in a way it might suit us having those kind of games where the pressure is on all of us, as opposed to playing someone at the bottom of the league who has nothing to play for. We'll find out won't we, we'll find out."

* Ipswich and Wigan appear to be vying for one automatic promotion spot.

Wigan hold the advantage with a vastly superior goal difference to their East Anglian rivals, who will hope for another Sunderland victory on Tuesday night when the Black Cats travel to Lancashire, despite Ipswich manager Joe Royle's claim he no longer looks beyond his own team's fixture list.

''I used to be doing projected points from around about Christmas,'' Royle told Radio Five Live, after the 3-2 Portman Road victory over Derby.

''It got to the stage where it was quite silly with one or two other managers ringing me up to see how many points they were going to get. I don't do that anymore."

Darren Bent netted his 16th goal of the season to turn the match and ruin former boss George Burley's return to Portman Road.

It had appeared to be another good day for away specialists Derby but they could not build on Marcus Tudgay's early header and did not score again until late on through Inigo Idiakez.

Result: QPR 1 Sunderland 3.

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