Everton lost a 16-penalty shootout to exit the Carabao Cup after equalising twice in normal time of 90 minutes in west London that to-and-froed before finishing all-square.
The level scores felt about right but Everton couldn't capitalise on their powers of recovery in a penalty contest that peaked for drama when Ben Godfrey had to retake after his initial effort was saved by an encroaching Seny Dieng.
Dieng ultimately pushed Tom Davies' penalty, Everton's eighth, onto a post, and Jimmy Dunne crashed in the winner.
Mason Holgate, Michael Keane, Andros Townsend, Demarai Gray, Anthony Gordon, Abdoulaye Doucoure and Godfrey all converted for Everton.
QPR led twice in the opening half, Charlie Austin heading in goals either side of Lucas Digne's cute 30th-minute volley, with Townsend supplying Everton's second equaliser early in the second half.
Rafael Benitez’s team went into the interval with a one-goal deficit to recover.
They’d been in similar predicaments three times this term and on two of those occasions emerged victorious.
This was trickier, perhaps, than those Premier League meetings with Southampton and Burnley when 0-1 became 3-1.
Everton were missing a handful of key performers and playing a Championship team scenting the scalp of illustrious Premier League visitors in town.
Additionally, Benitez’s side were seeking a reaction to a first defeat this term.
It spoke to the character of this Everton team, then, when within two minutes of the restart it was 2-2. Gordon galloped forwards to win a corner that was delivered low from the left by Andre Gomes.
Salomon Rondon was involved at the outset of the set-piece, Holgate then steering the ball goalwards from close range.
Dieng stopped Holgate’s effort going in the net but could only help the ball into the path of the increasingly prolific Townsend.
Scorer of the winner at Huddersfield Town in round two and that pearler against Burnley last week, Townsend gleefully swept in his third goal in six starts.
The same player created Everton's opener and scored his side's third penalty in the shootout but ultimately and lucklessly finished on the losing side.
Everton’s goal on the half hour was straight from the pages of a tactical and technical textbook.
The away side moved the ball briskly and cleverly swapped positions in the final third to create time and space for Townsend.
The forward, with two assists already this season, lifted his head and saw a blur of movement out of the corner of his left eye.
Digne was on the charge and when the ball arrived over the top of the home defence, the left-back cushioned his side-footed volley inside the near-post of a keeper in Dieng expecting a shot across goal.
The accomplished strike from Digne, however, was sandwiched by two goals for Austin.
QPR seized the initiative from a very well worked move after 18 minutes.
Ilias Chair turned a promising ball from Chris Willock into a very good pass indeed. The 23-year-old midfielder with a low centre of gravity evokes images of Eden Hazard with his upper-body strength and twisting and turning.
The elusive Moroccan dashed behind Godfrey and waited for support from Sam McCallum.
Left wing-back McCallum belted in a cross that was too hot to handle for Asmir Begovic. Austin has a nose for these things and was Johnny-on-the-spot to head home despite Godfrey’s attempts to clear on the line.
And the home side went down a similar route to restore their advantage.
Chair traded passes in a tight spot with Willock before arcing in a delivery that invited Austin to glance across Begovic and inside the keeper’s left post.
Willock had fired the first attempt during a spiky opening. Godfrey made the block and Austin was high from distance not long after.
Davies began the game on the receiving end of a heavy challenge in the middle of the park and exacted retribution with a cruncher of his own in quick time.
But it was the midfielder’s positioning and poise on the ball that prompted Everton’s first fluent move of the game.
Davies was perfectly placed to collect possession when Gomes won a tackle running back towards his own goal and redirected play upfield for Townsend.
He glided past a couple of challenges to feed Alex Iwobi, whose cut-back picked out Gordon.
The 20-year-old Gordon, starting an Everton game for the first time since January, pulled the trigger but was denied by Dieng, diving to his right to make the save.
Gomes flashed shots past the post in minutes 24 and 25 – Gordon serving up both chances.
This after Rob Dickie stooped to head over Townsend’s latest dipping, inswung right-wing cross.
At 1-0 to QPR, it was Everton making all the running – Austin heading over from a Willock delivery from the left notwithstanding.
And moments before he was defeated by Digne, Dieng saved one-on-one from Iwobi after Yoann Barbet’s ill-timed slip presented the Everton player with a clear run at goal.
His blood up after creating Everton’s leveller, Townsend stung the palms of Dieng from distance following a Rondon-led counter.
Momentum swung with the evergreen Austin’s second goal and Begovic beat out Willock’s low drive before McCallum was wide on the follow up after Godfrey headed out a ball hung into the area by Willock.
Everton were on terms again within 120 seconds of the restart.
And twice in the following seven minutes they might have hit the front.
Rondon shot over from inside the box after Gordon carried the ball forwards at speed and the Venezuelan was closer with a flicked header that flew past Dieng’s left upright.
Begovic held a tame Chair effort between times.
The energetic Gordon legged it down the left for a cross diverted behind at the front post just before the hour and Digne was so frustrated when a last-ditch interception prevented him from connecting with Iwobi’s slide-rule pass.
Doucoure, on for Gomes, wanted a penalty when falling under pressure from Dickie but nothing doing.
Keane replaced Digne on 80 minutes and with his first touch headed over a corner from another substitute in Gray.
That was it for the goalmouth action until it came in bundles with the penalties that went on and on but ended in noisy celebrations for the ecstatic home supporters.
Gordon Takes Chance
Anthony Gordon made an eighth Everton start more than nine months after he began his seventh game, against Rotherham United in an FA Cup tie. The 20-year-old’s previous starting appearances all came in front of empty stands, to boot.
Here was a chance to impress his manager and the Evertonians crammed into two tiers behind a goal at one end of this compact ground.
Gordon was up the other end when he received a cut back from Alex Iwobi after 13 minutes.
The forward’s shot was well hit but slightly too close to Seny Dieng, the goalkeeper who denied Gordon a first goal in senior football.
Gordon would have released Iwobi into the box but for a sliding Dominic Ball intercepting an intricate pass.
Andros Townsend, on the opposite flank here, spoke recently of a wish to advise young players such as Gordon against the mistakes of his own youth.
In football terms, Townsend concedes he was reluctant as an up and comer to vacate his position on the touchline.
Gordon, by contrast, has cottoned on early and moves infield to create space and swap passes with midfielders.
He drove into the middle to supply Andre Gomes for a shot that skimmed wide soon after Everton fell behind for the first time.
There was an action replay 60 seconds later –and Gordon continued to carry the fight to QPR when Everton were in a spot of bother.
He won the corner that led to Townsend making it 2-2 and within minutes was leading the charge when Salomon Rondon eventually shot over.
Gordon put in a shift off the ball, too, retaining the visitors’ shape and helping nullify QPR’s attacking threat down the right.
He was nerveless at 4-4 in the shootout and cut a forlorn figure on his haunches when the game was settled.
The graduate from Everton’s Academy was annoyed with himself after that Rotherham game. He felt he’d tried too hard and not taken his chance.
The best players learn from their mistakes and on tonight’s influential and clear-minded showing, Anthony Gordon did precisely that.