Newcastle 1-0 QPR: Best superb-finish
Mark Hughes's tenure as Queens Park Rangers manager began with a 1-0 defeat to Newcastle United at St James' Park that leaves his new club in the Premier League relegation zone.
Leon Best's well-taken strike on 37 minutes means that – just as with the Welshman's first matches in charge of Manchester City (defeat at Aston Villa) and Fulham (goalless draw at Bolton) – Hughes begins a third successive job without a win.
QPR remain in 18th place, below Blackburn Rovers on goal difference, while Newcastle move above Liverpool into sixth place as they extend their 100 per cent start to 2012 to three matches.
Rangers' run without a win since mid-November is what did for Neil Warnock's tenure at the club, but the Londoners began life under new boss Hughes brightly on Tyneside.
With less than a minute on the clock the Rs' top scorer Heidar Helguson fired an ambitious low shot from range right at goalkeeper Tim Krul. That set the tone for the opening stages in which Akos Buzsaky marked a rare start with a swerving strike that Krul beat away desperately and Shaun Wright-Phillips fired in a strike from the left that clipped the top of the crossbar.
Newcastle's recent malaise looked to have been dispelled following back-to-back wins over Manchester United in the league and Blackburn in the FA Cup, but their uncertain start here was compounded by an injury to key midfielder Yohan Cabaye midway through the first half.
The Frenchman was caught on the ankle by QPR enforcer Shaun Derry, who received a booking for a challenge which will add to the current debate over what constitutes a reckless tackle.
With top scorer Demba Ba and midfield general Chieck Tiote both away at the African Cup of Nations and centre-back Steven Taylor ruled out for the season, Newcastle boss Alan Pardew could have been forgiven for fearing the worst when Cabaye left the pitch on a stretcher.
However, the introduction of Hatem Ben Arfa helped to compensate for that loss, and the home side set about asserting their authority in front of their home crowd.
Ryan Taylor had a low drive from range tipped around the post by Paddy Kenny, but soon afterwards the Magpies were ahead. Taylor fed Best inside the area and the Republic of Ireland striker tricked his way past Luke Young with some nimble footwork before calmly side-footing a finish around Kenny and into the far corner.
Best's fourth goal of the campaign consigned Rangers to a 12th-straight league game without a clean sheet.
The visitors could have been level soon afterwards when Jay Bothroyd's strike appeared to have the beating of Krul but clipped the outside of the far post, but their failure to convert any of their 10 attempts on goal saw them go into the break a goal down.
QPR continued to create chances after the break - Bothroyd fired over the bar and forced a near-post save from Krul within 10 minutes of the restart – but they remained unable to convert any of their myriad chances into goals.
Jonas Gutierrez obeyed the crowd's instructions to shoot after Kenny had come rushing off his line to clear the ball for a throw, but Danny Gabbidon was back to head the Argentina winger's effort clear and spare his keeper's blushes.
Ben Arfa continued to look a threat whenever he had the ball, often requiring two QPR players' attention when he was in possession. Hughes threw on Tommy Smith and Federico Macheda, but if anything those introductions had a detrimental effect on his team's attacking potency and Newcastle were able to play keep-ball in the closing stages and seal a win that takes them above Liverpool by a point.
Newcastle United: Krul, Coloccini, Santon, Cabaye, Simpson, Williamson, Guthrie, R. Taylor, Gutierrez, Best, Shola Ameobi. Subs: Elliot, Ben Arfa, Abeid, Perch, Gosling, Obertan, Ferguson
QPR: Kenny, Hill, Derry, Gabbidon, Bothroyd, Mackie, Buzsaky, Young, Helguson, Wright-Phillips, Ferdinand. Subs: Cerny, Orr, Hall, Campbell, Smith, Ephraim, Macheda.