Ivan Klasnic's first Premier League goal for three months settled this showdown between two relegation rivals, although it was not the one being talked about as both clubs took stock afterwards. It was Clint Hill's phantom one in the first half that consumed the thoughts of all as they departed.
"From our point of view to have that clear goal chalked off was a significant moment for us," said the Queens Park Rangers manager, Mark Hughes, of Hill's header that clearly crossed the line. "Don't underestimate the significance of scoring first. We were the away side, we are at the wrong end of the table, and to score first would have been crucial for us. Not getting a decision of that magnitude correct impacted on what we could get out of the game."
"We came with a positive attitude because I know that when you're at the bottom draws don't really move you. You need to win games. We deserved something out of the game, but all we ask for is a level playing field, so that if we get beaten fairly and squarely we will hold our hands up. We are big enough and brave enough to do that. But we are getting players sent off after 30 minutes, having penalty awards not given, and goals chalked off when they should be given.''.
"The situation we find ourselves in, we have to demand that their performance is better. We can't have the key moments in games being officiated the way they are at the moment."
There were words of sympathy from the opposite dug-out. "There is nobody who is a bigger advocate of goalline technology than me – the sooner it's brought in the better," said Owen Coyle. "I can understand Mark Hughes's frustration but I have to credit my goalkeeper, Adam Bogdan, because it was a wonderful palm out."
The moment of injustice came after 20 minutes when centre-back Hill met Joey Barton's corner from the left with a glancing close-range header that Bogdan clawed back into play via the underside of the bar from a position two feet over the line.
Barton's delivery followed a pantomime prelude – first, a corner had been awarded despite the last touch being a brush against Djibril Cissé's shirt, then Barton toyed with the referee, Martin Atkinson, by attempting to deliver the dead-ball from outside the arc – but humour was in short supply as Hill curtailed initial celebration. Assistant Bob Pollock – the official who enraged Tottenham by ruling out a legitimate Emmanuel Adebayor goal at Stoke for offside earlier this season – shook his head. So did Hughes as he departed at the interval. But for a contrasting reason.
By then, the visitors were behind courtesy of Darren Pratley's 37th-minute header. They should not and would not have been but for sharper finishing or better fortune: Barton's measured sidefooter deflected wide, Bobby Zamora's volley from an acute angle kissed the crossbar and Shaun Wright-Phillips ballooned high and wide.
To add to the drama, QPR levelled two minutes after the re-start through Cissé's predatory flick of his right boot. Everyone, apart from Atkinson's other official Jake Collin, agreed that the French international was offside as Wright-Phillips dinked through the heart of Bolton's defence.
Both managers made attacking changes in the final 10 minutes in a bid to secure all three points and although the visitors were denied three times in one manic late penalty area scramble, it was Coyle's decision to throw on the Croatian Klasnic that proved decisive, as he stroked in Ryo Miyaichi's cute assist four minutes from the end.
"It was sublime skill from Ryo, and when Klasnic goes in one on one with the goalkeeper there's only one thing that's going to happen," said Coyle, whose side climbed out of the bottom three as a consequence. ''We have to kick on in the last 10 games.''