André Villas-Boas' frenzied celebration when Jermain Defoe plundered what proved to be the winning goal told its own story. It was from the realms of Stuart Pearce at Euro 96 and the elation could only have been magnified as his Tottenham Hotspur team had been so dismal in the opening 45 minutes.

Jeered off at half-time, it had been easy to fear the worst for the Portuguese. But a half-time reshuffle helped to turn the tide and two quick goals were sufficient to earn the manager a first home victory at the fourth attempt, Defoe's fourth of the season at club level coming hard on the heels of Ale Faurlín's own goal.

Queens Park Rangers will kick themselves all the way back to west London. They had led at the interval through the former Tottenham centre-forward Bobby Zamora's fourth of the season and their supremacy was total. Brad Friedel kept the home team in contention with three fine saves. But the second-half turnaround was remarkable and it allowed Rangers to lament the continuation of their terrible away form.

The relief for Villas-Boas was palpable. While his opposite number Mark Hughes reached for the heavy-duty overcoat as the rain lashed down, he seemed oblivious as his smart suit came to resemble a sponge. At full-time he clenched his fist and gave vent to another wild outpouring. It has been far from smooth sailing but, after the win over Reading and now this, he has something on which to build.

"It's important that people understand we have wanted this home win for quite some time," Villas-Boas said, mindful that no Tottenham manager has ever failed to win one of his first four home games. "You could feel the anxiety when we went 1-0 down and we can be a bit more stable now. Everybody felt emotional at the end."

It was edgy. Tottenham created nothing in the first-half and their lack of cohesion was startling. Friedel was the hero as he marked his 309th consecutive Premier League start with eye-catching saves, tipping over Clint Hill's header and twice denying Junior Hoilett. Hugo Lloris, the £13m goalkeeping signing from Lyon, is set to remain as a substitute. "The situation will carry on," Villas-Boas said. "We are paying respect to a player who is performing very well."

Faurlín and Esteban Granero called the midfield tune in the first half and it was no surprise when Rangers took the lead. It did not work out for Zamora during his six-month spell at White Hart Lane in 2003-04 – he scored only once, in the League Cup – but his finish here bristled with assurance, after he had been released by Faurlín's beautifully disguised through ball.

Villas-Boas admitted that he had erred in the first-half by inviting Rangers to take the initiative in the hope that Tottenham could counter, and he had to change at half-time. He shuffled his side to push Gareth Bale further forward on the left, while he moved Clint Dempsey up with Defoe and asked his defenders to hold a higher line. Bale had started at left-back as Benoît Assou-Ekotto and Kyle Naughton were injured, but it is no good having your best attacking player in defence. Jan Vertonghen moved across from centre-half.

Everything was soon turned on its head. Steven Caulker, the half-time substitute who replaced Vertonghen in central defence, rose to meet a Bale corner and Faurlín, so impressive in the first half, found himself facing the wrong way and, under pressure from Defoe, bundled into his own net.

Tottenham were in front as Rangers reeled. Vertonghen led a fast break, with the QPR manager complaining about what he said were fouls on Granero and Nedum Onuoha. "We are very disappointed with the referee," Hughes said. Vertonghen slipped the ball to Bale, whose shot clipped Júlio César and reared against the bar but Defoe was lurking. He took a touch and scored from close range.

Caulker made a difference on attacking set-pieces while Dempsey also came into the game, threatening with his shooting from distance. Bale marauded and he and Defoe might have added to the lead. The points, though, meant everything.

Man of the match Brad Friedel (Tottenham Hotspur)