Wigan forward Shaun Maloney struck a free-kick four minutes into injury time to secure a 1-1 draw and nudge QPR closer to relegation from the Barclays Premier League.
Loic Remy appeared to have given Rangers renewed hope in their survival quest with a stunning 85th-minute strike, only for Maloney to drive home a ferocious equaliser from 20 yards just seconds from the final whistle.
It was a spectacular twist to the match and agonising for QPR who had played all but 20 minutes with only 10 men after Bobby Zamora was sent off for a moment of madness. In attempting to reach a throw in, Zamora kicked Jordi Gomez, striking the Spanish midfielder in the head with his studs and dropping him to the floor.
Gomez received treatment and having consulted assistant Scott Ledger, referee Phil Dowd sent Zamora off. It was an inexplicable act from the former England forward given his side were in control at the time and the 32-year-old will now miss crucial fixtures against Everton, Stoke and Reading - with his side seven points from safety.
Flashes of promise were evident from QPR in the opening five minutes as a back heal from Zamora was missed by Remy and Junior Hoilett at the far post. Better was to come from Remy in the ninth minute when the Frenchman struck the left post with a ferocious shot that had beaten keeper Joel Robles.
But the bright start shuddered to a halt in the 21st minute when Zamora was dismissed for his reckless tackle on Gomez. The England forward complained bitterly at Dowd's decision and Rangers fans repeatedly jeered Gomez thereafter, but Zamora had left the official with little option but to produce his red card.
Julio Cesar kept a well-struck long-range effort from James McCarthy at bay while at the other end only a terrific tackle from Emmerson Boyce prevented Remy from connecting with a cross from Jose Bosingwa. Adel Taarabt was brought off the bench, replacing Hoilett, and his pinpoint delivery to Remy at the far post was headed narrowly wide.
Despite their numerical advantage, Wigan had barely mustered a shot at goal and it was 10-man QPR who were the more dangerous side. Wigan would have taken the lead in the 78th minute had substitute James McArthur not directed his header straight at Cesar, who was making only his second real save of the game.
The Latics must have raised their hopes when they were awarded a free-kick 30 yards out, but instead it proved their downfall as the ball was stolen by Stephane Mbia. Mbia dashed 50 yards and released Remy who rifled home his fifth goal since his £8million transfer from Marseille in January from the edge of the area.
However, Mbia barged into the back of Maloney 20 yards out and the midfielder picked himself up to curl in the leveller.