Sunderland old boys Djibril Cisse and Nedum Onuoha had an afternoon to forget on their return to Wearside as struggling QPR went down 3-1.
Trailing to Nicklas Bendtner's 41st-minute header, the visitors' hopes of launching another fightback were dealt a major blow when Cisse was sent off for an ugly 55th-minute challenge on Fraizer Campbell.
The Black Cats took full advantage with James McClean scoring a second 20 minutes from time and Stephane Sessegnon adding a third before Taye Taiwo superbly converted a late free-kick for the visitors.
Martin O'Neill's joy will have been tempered, however, by the sight of defender John O'Shea limping off before the break with an injury which could jeopardise his chances of playing in Tuesday night's FA Cup quarter-final replay against Everton.
All the talk before kick-off surrounded the absence from the QPR starting line-up of outspoken midfielder Joey Barton, who had been booed by his own fans as he was substituted in midweek.
However, Barton, who tweeted: "All time low.........2 ways out. 1. Work hard 2. Worker harder," still managed to make an impression as he warmed up on the sideline 20 minutes into the game.
Having emerged to a predictable response from the locals, he slipped further in their estimation with a gesture which reminded them of their 5-1 defeat at former club Newcastle last season.
On the pitch, Sunderland enjoyed the better of a lacklustre 45 minutes which only really took off during the final few minutes.
Jack Colback had passed up two glorious opportunities inside a minute with the game a quarter of an hour old, side-footing weakly at Taiwo from close range and then volleying wide from McClean's knock-down.
Sessegnon, back after a three-match ban, could have cited rustiness as an excuse for an uncharacteristically poor attempt from close range seven minutes later.
The Benin international's effort came seconds after Cisse had seen a rare effort blocked by O'Shea, but the defender's afternoon came to a premature conclusion five minutes later when he limped off.
The temperature rose as the half wore on, particularly after Sotirios Kyrgiakos and Bobby Zamora had clashed with the striker appearing to suggest he had been head-butted, and it was the home side who eventually took the lead with four minutes remaining.
McClean paid off the first instalment of his new deal when he crossed to the far post for Bendtner to climb high above Taiwo and head firmly past keeper Paddy Kenny and into the far corner.
Adel Taarabt wasted a chance to make life difficult for the home defence when he drilled an ambitious 46th-minute free-kick from all of 35 yards straight at David Vaughan in the defensive wall, and his side might have been made to pay within minutes.
Craig Gardner, playing at right-back in the absence of O'Shea, got forward well down the right with 48 minutes gone, but overhit his cross, and David Vaughan blasted high over seconds later.
However, the visitors' plight deepened a minute later when Cisse was shown a straight red card for an ugly lunge at Campbell.
Sessegnon might have taken advantage of his side's numerical advantage when he broke clear after 58 minutes, but he shot high and wide.
Rangers boss Mark Hughes sent on winger Shaun Wright-Phillips in place of Taarabt with half an hour left, but the game might have been over within four minutes had Luke Young not managed to get a block on McClean's goalbound shot after Gardner's cross had been allowed to reach him at the far post.
It was effectively over 20 minutes from time when McClean made sure of the points.
Onuoha was caught under the ball, and the winger nipped in behind him and after seeing Young block his initial effort, thumped the rebound past Kenny with the help of a deflection of Onuoha.
The visitors were in disarray, and things took a further turn for the worse six minutes later when Sessegnon slid home Vaughan's cross from close range to make it 3-0.
Taiwo reduced the deficit with a superb 79th-minute free-kick, but there was to be no repeat of his side's last-gasp heroics against Liverpool in midweek.