Watford reached the FA Cup quarter-finals for the second time in four seasons after a hard-fought win against battling Queens Park Rangers.
Etienne Capoue’s finish on the stroke of half-time, after Tom Cleverley’s mis-hit, proved the difference.
Championship QPR went close through Massimo Luongo, while Watford keeper Heurelho Gomes marked his 38th birthday with a fine save to deny Nahki Wells.
But Watford progressed after scoring from their only shot on target.
- Reaction from Loftus Road as Watford reach FA Cup quarter-finals
- Watch all FA Cup goals and highlights
With no replays in this season’s fifth-round ties, QPR captain Toni Leistner spurned a great chance to force extra-time at Loftus Road when he missed from point-blank range after Darnell Furlong’s cross in the closing stages.
Watford go from strength to strength under Gracia
This was another determined performance from Javi Gracia’s Watford, who had to dig deep on their way to another clean sheet.
The Premier League club have not conceded a goal in three games in this season’s competition but they lived dangerously, particularly in the first half, when QPR carved out several good chances.
At the other end of the pitch, chances were few and far between.
Daryl Janmaat prodded a first-time attempt over the bar and it looked like Watford would go in at the interval without managing a shot on target when Capoue struck.
It came after Cleverley mis-hit a cross, following a short corner, into the path of the French midfielder, who produced a calm first-time finish for his third goal of the campaign.
With no Video Assistant Referee system in operation, Andre Gray wrongly had a goal ruled out for offside before Leistner’s incredible 87th-minute miss.
Gracia’s side continue to impress.
Eighth in the Premier League table, they now have six clean sheets in the last eight league and cup games – and have Wembley in their sights in the FA Cup.
Incredible miss as QPR suffer another defeat
German defender Leistner will have nightmares about his late miss.
Sliding in at the back post, he somehow fired wide when it looked easier to score after Furlong fizzed the ball across the six-yard area.
Steve McClaren’s side are left to focus on the league, where they have dropped from eighth in the table to 18th since the start of 2019 after five successive second-tier defeats.
At least there were some positives for the former England manager from his side’s latest setback.
They impressed in spells against top-flight opposition.
Luongo thought he had scored after letting fly from 20 yards following Gomes’ clearance from a corner before Watford’s Brazilian goalkeeper somehow kept out Wells, on loan from Burnley, after Luke Freeman’s ball over the top of the visitors’ defence.
Wells wasted another chance after the interval which had McClaren waving his arms in the air in frustration.
It was nothing compared to the QPR manager’s reaction when Leistner fired wide in front of an open goal near the end.
Man of the match – Heurelho Gomes (Watford)
‘Our fans are enjoying this season’ – what they said
Queens Park Rangers manager Steve McClaren: “We’re not far way. We just need the rub of the green.
“We have to keep working hard and eventually our luck will turn.
“Five games ago we were talking about the play-offs. We need to get players back from injury and finish the season strong.”
Watford boss Javi Gracia: “We knew Premier League teams have been knocked out against teams from other leagues so we knew this would be a demanding game.
“Our fans are enjoying the season not only with the FA Cup but with the league as well.
“They can see the team is giving everything and the results are coming.”
QPR’s worrying run of form – the stats
- QPR have lost six of their last eight games in all competitions after a run of six games unbeaten directly before that.
- Watford have kept five clean sheets in their last six games in all competitions, as many shut-outs as they managed in their previous 24.
- The Hornets have won eight of their last nine FA Cup ties against sides from a lower division, losing only against Millwall in the fourth round in 2016-17.
- Four of Etienne Capoue’s last five goals for Watford have come in cup competitions (2 FA Cup, 2 League Cup, 1 Premier League).
QPR are back in action on Tuesday when they host West Brom in the Championship (19:45 GMT), while Watford travel to Cardiff City in the Premier League next Friday (19:45).
- 4HallSubstituted forOsayi-Samuelat 84'minutes
- 23WszolekSubstituted forEzeat 76'minutes
- 21LuongoBooked at 73mins
- 32WellsSubstituted forHemedat 71'minutes
- 2JanmaatBooked at 90mins
- 8CleverleySubstituted forQuinaat 84'minutes
- 12SemaSubstituted forMariappaat 74'minutesBooked at 76mins
- 18GraySubstituted forDoucouréat 74'minutesBooked at 86mins
- Michael Oliver
- Shots on Target
Match ends, Queens Park Rangers 0, Watford 1.
Second Half ends, Queens Park Rangers 0, Watford 1.
Troy Deeney (Watford) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Toni Leistner (Queens Park Rangers).
Hand ball by Bright Samuel (Queens Park Rangers).
Offside, Watford. Daryl Janmaat tries a through ball, but Will Hughes is caught offside.
Daryl Janmaat (Watford) is shown the yellow card.
Corner, Watford. Conceded by Massimo Luongo.
Attempt missed. Toni Leistner (Queens Park Rangers) right footed shot from the left side of the six yard box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Darnell Furlong following a set piece situation.
Attempt missed. Darnell Furlong (Queens Park Rangers) right footed shot from a difficult angle on the right misses to the left following a set piece situation.
Abdoulaye Doucouré (Watford) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Abdoulaye Doucouré (Watford).
Bright Samuel (Queens Park Rangers) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Attempt blocked. Troy Deeney (Watford) right footed shot from the right side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Daryl Janmaat.
Substitution, Queens Park Rangers. Bright Samuel replaces Grant Hall.
Substitution, Watford. Domingos Quina replaces Tom Cleverley.
Attempt missed. Christian Kabasele (Watford) right footed shot from the right side of the six yard box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by José Holebas with a cross following a set piece situation.
Troy Deeney (Watford) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Darnell Furlong (Queens Park Rangers).
Offside, Queens Park Rangers. Jordan Cousins tries a through ball, but Eberechi Eze is caught offside.
Substitution, Queens Park Rangers. Eberechi Eze replaces Pawel Wszolek.
Adrian Mariappa (Watford) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Adrian Mariappa (Watford).
Luke Freeman (Queens Park Rangers) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Watford. Adrian Mariappa replaces Ken Sema.
Substitution, Watford. Abdoulaye Doucouré replaces Andre Gray.
Massimo Luongo (Queens Park Rangers) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Ken Sema (Watford) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Massimo Luongo (Queens Park Rangers).
Offside, Watford. Troy Deeney tries a through ball, but Andre Gray is caught offside.
Substitution, Queens Park Rangers. Tomer Hemed replaces Nahki Wells.
Attempt missed. Toni Leistner (Queens Park Rangers) header from the left side of the six yard box misses to the left. Assisted by Luke Freeman with a cross following a corner.
Corner, Queens Park Rangers. Conceded by José Holebas.
Will Hughes (Watford) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Luke Freeman (Queens Park Rangers).
Attempt missed. Tom Cleverley (Watford) right footed shot from outside the box is too high following a corner.
Corner, Watford. Conceded by Darnell Furlong.
Attempt missed. Troy Deeney (Watford) header from the centre of the box misses to the right. Assisted by Tom Cleverley following a set piece situation.
Troy Deeney (Watford) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Toni Leistner (Queens Park Rangers).