It just had to be him, didn’t it?
Here was a story of West Brom strikers past and and present. One debut, one reunion. In the end, it was Charlie Austin, rather than Daryl Dike, that had the last laugh for what is three massive points in the race for the Premier League.
Let’s start with the present, the shiny new thing in a Baggies shirt, in January signing Dike.
Charlie Austin scored a dramatic late winner to see QPR to a 1-0 victory over West Brom
A tight encounter saw few clear cut chances and the game looked to be heading for a draw
But substitute Austin got to Chris Willock’s cross to head in from very close range for victory
MATCH FACTS AND PLAYER RATINGS
QPR 3-4-1-2: Marshall 7; Dickie 6, Dunne 6 Barbet 6.5; Adomah 7, Johansen 6.5, Field 6, Wallace 5.5; Willock 7 (Ball 90+3); Dykes 5, Gray 6 (Austin 64 7.5)
Subs not used: Amos, Thomas, Dozzell, Odubajo, Walsh
Bookings: Dickie, Field
Goals: Austin 89
Manager: Mark Warburton 7
West Brom 3-4-3: Button 6; Furlong 7, Clarke 6, Townsend 6; Gardner-Hickman 6, Livermore 6, Molumby 5.5, Reach 6; Robinson 6.5, Phillips 5.5 (Dike 59), Grant 7
Subs not used: Diangana, De Catro, Taylor, Ashworth, Palmer, Fellows
Manager: Valerian Ismael 6
Referee: Simon Hooper 6
On he came, just before the hour, to a huge gladiatorial roar from the away end that West Brom were shooting towards in the second half. Expectations are sky high for the American international, on to make his debut.
And yet it was a familiar face that took centre stage on a nip-and-tuck night between promotion rivals when he nodded home in the 90th minute, cue pandemonium in west London.
Austin made his permanent exit from the Hawthorns at the start of the season and made a return to QPR without too much fanfare. He started on the bench here, behind Andre Gray and Lyndon Dykes in the pecking order.
‘Charlie Austin, he left because you’re s**t,’ sang the away end.
But when Mark Warburton turned to him with QPR in desperate need of a goal, and with all eyes on Dike, Austin wore a wry smile. There was plenty of time to exact his revenge.
On he came with 64 minutes played, replacing Gray, and as West Brom turned the screw there he was to put a dagger in their promotion hopes.
Chris Willock drove purposely down the right wing and he had the composure, something that was in short supply for both sides on the day, to look up and lift a sumptuous cross towards Austin in the six-yard box.
It was a move that almost played out in slow motion, Austin, eyes glued to the ball, stole a yard on Matt Clarke and nodded in past a helpless David Button.
So much for Fulham’s six goals down the road, this was as important as any of those and Austin knew it, racing over to Warburton who he embraced in a bear hug.
Mission accomplished. QPR knew a win would take them above their opponents and while this was no classic for 89 minutes, Austin’s winner could prove to be absolutely massive.
This was not how Dike envisioned his Championship return, this time with West Brom, rather than Barnsley.
West Brom’s new signing Daryl Dike (left) made his debut, coming on for Matt Phillips (right)
With 59 minutes on the clock Valerian Ismael turned to Sammy Lee, exchanged a few words with his assistant before giving the nod to his bench in the direction of Dike.
QPR were growing into the game at that point, Willock stinging the gloves of Button and Ismael knew he needed to change the swing of momentum.
Dike, who worked with Ismael at Barnsley last season, joined West Brom on January 1 and the American has had to be patient to make his debut.
In a hurry to make his mark, Dike almost transformed the game with his first touch, flicking on a header to send Callum Robinson through on goal, only for Yoann Barbet to make a last-ditch challenge.
Next he picked out Karlan Grant on the break and his shot squirmed under goalkeeper David Marshall, who was making his QPR debut after arriving from Derby in the week, and rolled along the line. It was so close it was hard not to think one intake of breath from the 2,679 in the away end might have sucked it in.
Things got heated when Dike (No 12) put in a rough challenge on QPR’s Yoann Barbet
All eyes were on Dike, who set Albion back a reported £7million, and it was his duel with Barbet that almost brought his afternoon to an abrupt halt.
Jostling for the ball near the dugouts, Dike was livid when a shoulder barge sent Barbet flying over the advertising hoarding and the decision went in favour of QPR. Home fans called for a red as Ismael raced on with flat palms, pleading with his new arrival to keep his cool.
This is a West Brom side that arrived winless in four, and with just two wins on the road from their last 10 league games. Nerves felt understandable.
And then came the dagger, the proof that this blip is going to cost them if Ismael cannot get a tune out of Dike quickly.
Austin sat on the bench for an hour itching for just one chance and with moments left he got it.