Tottenham’s Champions League ambitions were dealt a crushing blow as they lost 1-0 to relegation contenders Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road.
Former Spurs midfielder Adel Taraabt scored the only goal of the game before being sent off late on for a second bookable offence.
The visitors pressed desperately for an equaliser as Rangers’ sat back for the later stages of the game but the home side’s resilient defence held on for a vital three points.
Newcastle’s win against Stoke earlier in the day pushed Spurs outside the Champions League places for the first time since October, increasing the pressure on Harry Redknapp’s side for a victory.
But QPR, sitting precariously above the bottom three, were also looking to grab the points as they look to avoid relegation in their first season since regaining promotion to the Premier League.
Taraabt’s superb 25-yard free kick put the home side in front on 23 minutes but Tottenham will argue the foul should not have been awarded in the first place.
Sandro stretched to nick the ball off the eventual goal scorer and as he went to ground following the tackle, his elbow struck the ball prompting referee Mark Clattenburg to blow for handball.
Taraabt was shown red on 78 minutes when he received a second booking for kicking the ball away, leaving Rangers to soak up wave after wave of Spurs attacks to see out the game.
Giovani’s scuffed shot hit the post in a frenzied last 12 minutes, while Paddy Kenny was on hand to parry Van der Vaart’s shot from 12 yards.
An equalizer should have come with 20 minutes left when the ball fell to Rafael Van der Vaart eight yards out but the Dutchman flashed his shot into the stands.
Tottenham were in disarray at the back early on and were lucky QPR failed to take advantage of a mix up between Friedel and Walker and subsequent failed clearances by Parker and Gallas.
Despite their defensive frailties, Spurs looked dangerous going forward and Bale’s header from six yards forced Kenny to tip over after the Welshman wrestled free of his marker from a Van der Vaart corner.
Seconds later, Kenny could only parry the Dutchman’s drilled shot from the left side of the box to Defoe who lofted his follow-up header narrowly over the cross bar.
QPR did not sit on their first half lead and regularly looked to hit Spurs on the counter attack through Jamie Mackie and, in particular, Taraabt.
A solo run from Samba Diakite immediately after the break signalled Rangers’ attacking intentions as they looked to gain a vital three points at the bottom end of the table.
William Gallas’ glancing header from a Van der Vaart free kick sailed agonisingly past Kenny’s far post.
Second-half substitute Danny Rose produced a magnificent block to keep his side in the game when he flung himself in front of Bobby Zamora’s shot from eight yards out but it was the home side on the back foot in the dying minutes.
Crosses from Bale and Rose from the left were consistently blocked out as QPR held on to lift them three points above the drop zone and leave Spurs three points adrift of the top four.
Tottenham: Friedel, Walker, Gallas, King, Assou-Ekotto (Rose, 65), Sandro (Lennon, 45), Modric, Parker (Giovani, 83), Bale, Van der Vaart, Defoe.
Subs not used: Cudicini, Livermore, Khumalo, Smith.
QPR: Kenny, Onuoha, Ferdinand, Hill, Taiwo, Mackie, Barton, Derry, Diakite (Buzsaky, 70), Taarabt, Zamora.
Subs not used: Cerny, Gabbidon, Traore, Helguson, Cisse, Wright-Phillips.
Bookings: Zamora, 21, Taarabt, 41 + 78, Onuoha, 74.
Sendings off: Taraabt, 78.
Referee: Mark Clattenburg.