THE crumbs of comfort are becoming smaller and less satisfying.

Following the 49th-minute dismissal of keeper Jason Steele for an avoidable handball outside his box, Sunderland’s players fought tigerishly in an attempt to leave west London with at least a point.

But, then, when why wouldn’t you fight tigerishly with the threat of relegation so real? That is the minimum that the Wearside faithful expect of their team.

The fact that Chris Coleman’s team didn’t capitulate meekly as they had done against Aston Villa in midweek ought not to be seen as a cause for optimism.

After all, in spite of a rousing finale in front of 1,579 travelling Mackems, the bald statistic from which no hope can be salvaged is that Sunderland failed to register a single effort on target in 90 minutes at Loftus Road.

QPR away was one of the few remaining fixtures that appeared winnable. And it was. Only Sunderland didn’t win it.

In a first half of few chances, Coleman’s side defended solidly enough, but their distribution was appalling. With few short passes on offer due to a lack of movement and easy options for the man in possession, more hopeful balls were attempted.

Almost all of them failed to find their target. When Sunderland did threaten from a free-kick after 20 minutes, Lamine Kone’s headed knockdown went straight to a Rangers defender.

Joel Asoro danced between two defenders a minute later and skipped to the by-line, but he failed to find Ashley Fletcher with his low cross.

The worst moment of the first period came on the half-hour when the energetic Jonny Williams had to come off following an earlier knock.

Aiden McGeady replaced him with George Honeyman switching to a central role and Asoro moving out to the right.

The home side offered no more themselves in a turgid first half. Gifted a free-kick on the edge of the area in the 44th minute when Lee Cattermole brought down Ebere Eze, the young striker got up and promptly drove his dead-ball effort straight into the Sunderland wall.

The second half was livelier. Much livelier. Sunderland will wish that it wasn’t. Steele misjudged a punt forward from Darnell Furlong, handled in panic when he saw that Paul Smyth would be through on goal and was rightly shown the red card.

Enter Lee Camp, a former QPR player who got an appreciative welcome from the Sunderland fans and a rapturous one from the home supporters, even singing his name as he entered the field.

Making way was Asoro, a decision for which Coleman was derided. As he explained later, though, Asoro was only going to play an hour anyway as he recovers from injury, so he missed a matter of minutes on the pitch.

Rangers keeper Alex Smithies made his own misjudgement at the other end, missing a cross and watching it strike Fletcher before being cleared by Joel Lynch.

Cattermole struck the QPR crest on the front façade at the top of the stand with a shot, yet, incredibly, that was as close as Sunderland came.

Instead, all the action came at the other end with Camp the central figure. He made a smart stop low down to deny Smyth, but could only watch on as Matt Smith outjumped John O’Shea and headed inches wide.

He do could do nothing about the Rangers goal after 62 minutes. Eze played a one-two with Smith and tucked the ball out of Camp’s reach for his first QPR goal.

For the next 25 minutes, Camp provided a one-man barrier to prevent the home side increasing their lead. He came out swiftly to block Smith’s effort when clean through and then threw himself to his left to palm away a curling effort from Bright Osayi-Samuel.

He also smothered another effort from the QPR substitute, held on to a Lynch header at a corner and was grateful to see the offside flag raised when Smith nodded home almost on the goal-line.

Camp said: “It’s always difficult coming on cold like that in a game and it’s usually to face something – a free-kick in this case, or a penalty.

“But I got into it fairly quickly and was pleased with a couple of saves I made. However, it was unfortunate day in terms of the result. Before the sending-off we were very much in it.

“But we won’t win games with our heads down on our chests. We have to get them up, stick our chests out and be brave.”

The decision to replace Fletcher with Josh Maja after 87 minutes met huge cheers from the away fans yet in spite of the astonishing energy of Honeyman in the final minutes, continually winning the ball back to set up crossing opportunities, an equaliser never seriously looked like arriving.