Match ends, Aston Villa 3, Queens Park Rangers 3.
- Villa salvage draw to stay out of bottom three
- Point keeps QPR in relegation zone
- Both teams have six matches left
- Benteke scores his second Villa hat-trick
Christian Benteke's hat-trick rescued a vital point for Aston Villa in a pulsating game against Premier League relegation rivals QPR.
QPR led when Matt Phillips headed in Bobby Zamora's deft left-wing cross.
Villa levelled through Benteke's deflected drive, then the Belgian's calm finish put them ahead.
Clint Hill's firm header and Charlie Austin's clinical finish restored QPR's lead, but Benteke's free-kick kept Villa out of the bottom three.
Villa would have dropped into the relegation zone, with QPR climbing out at their expense, had they been beaten by the visitors at Villa Park.
But Benteke's sublime set-piece, which he curled over the away defence into the bottom left corner of the QPR goal, ensured Villa moved up to 16th.
Tim Sherwood's men are three points clear of the third-bottom visitors, who climbed above Burnley with the draw.
However, both sides will be bitterly disappointed not to have taken maximum points. Villa looked sharper and more inventive for larger periods, but their long-standing defensive frailties allowed Rangers to go within sight of a second successive away win.
Sherwood warned his players ahead of kick-off that they would have to dig deep in a fixture which he described as "the club's biggest match for years" - and these fighting qualities came to the fore as they snatched a draw.
Rival managers Sherwood and Chris Ramsey are close friends, having worked together at Tottenham and living close to each other, and the two shared warm embraces on the touchline before kick-off and following the final whistle.
|Aston Villa:||Spurs (A) - 11 April||Man City (A) - 25 April|
|Everton (H) - 2 May||West Ham (H) - 9 May|
|So'ton (A) - 16 May||Burnley (H) - 24 May|
|QPR:||Chelsea (H) - 12 April||West Ham (H) - 25 April|
|Liverpool (A) - 2 May||Man City (A) - 10 May|
|Newcastle (H) - 16 May||Leicester (A) - 24 May|
Ramsey had only won one game since replacing Harry Redknapp in early February, but saw his side double their tally with a convincing 4-1 win at West Bromwich Albion on Saturday.
It meant Rangers returned to the West Midlands full of confidence - and they needed just nine minutes to take the lead.
Former England striker Zamora was allowed to run across the Villa penalty area, before clipping a perfectly-weighted cross to the far post where Phillips was waiting.
The Villa fans reacted by providing increased vocal support - and their team responded just 151 seconds later with the equaliser.
Belgium striker Benteke, who had scored five goals in his previous six matches for club and country, charged into the QPR box from the left touchline and saw his angled shot deflect off Rangers defender Mauricio Isla past his own keeper Robert Green.
Sherwood reacted to the equaliser with a manic celebration - ripping off his jacket and hurling it to the ground - to illustrate what the occasion meant to the Villa manager.
Villa oozed confidence in a high-tempo first half, dominating possession and territory, as the home side used their pace and energy to pull apart QPR's ageing side.
The Birmingham club, who have not been relegated since 1986-87, deservedly edged ahead when Benteke kept his composure to finish a swift counter attack.
Veteran QPR defender Hill escaped his marker at a corner to restore parity with his first Premier League goal, then England hopeful Austin pounced on a loose ball to sweep in his 17th top-flight goal of the season.
But, after Hill hauled down Villa substitute Charles N'Zogbia on the edge of the QPR penalty area, Benteke converted to walk off with the match ball.
Aston Villa manager Tim Sherwood:
"We deserved to win the game, anyone who saw it knew we created all the chances, we should have been out of sight.
"We have an injury crisis at this club and we are just trying to patch people up and get them out there and I thought they did extremely well in the circumstances. To not win after a one-sided football match is disappointing.
"On the balance I thought we played well but QPR just seemed to take their chances. I am not sure they had more than five shots and they score three goals."
QPR manager Chris Ramsey:
"I thought we could (hang on) but a free-kick is a free-kick, at that stage most of their attacking options had been exhausted.
"I'm disappointed if I'm being honest. But before the game if someone said we'd get four points from the last two games we probably would have taken that."
- 7BacunaSubstituted forLowtonat 75'minutes
- 8CleverleySubstituted forN'Zogbiaat 81'minutes
- 24C Sánchez
- 40GrealishSubstituted forColeat 70'minutes
- 14IslaSubstituted forTraoreat 52'minutes
- 6HillBooked at 82mins
- 30Guimaraes CordeiroBooked at 34minsSubstituted forDoughtyat 70'minutes
- 19KranjcarBooked at 35minsSubstituted forHenryat 52'minutes
- 9AustinBooked at 57mins
- Craig Pawson
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Aston Villa 3, Queens Park Rangers 3.
Attempt missed. Gabriel Agbonlahor (Aston Villa) right footed shot from the centre of the box misses to the right. Assisted by Ron Vlaar with a headed pass following a set piece situation.
Gabriel Agbonlahor (Aston Villa) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Matthew Phillips (Queens Park Rangers).
Attempt missed. Joe Cole (Aston Villa) right footed shot from a difficult angle on the right is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Matthew Lowton with a cross.
Corner, Aston Villa. Conceded by Armand Traore.
Offside, Queens Park Rangers. Michael Doughty tries a through ball, but Charlie Austin is caught offside.
Attempt missed. Christian Benteke (Aston Villa) right footed shot from the right side of the box is too high. Assisted by Matthew Lowton.
Foul by Carlos Sánchez (Aston Villa).
Michael Doughty (Queens Park Rangers) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Goal! Aston Villa 3, Queens Park Rangers 3. Christian Benteke (Aston Villa) from a free kick with a right footed shot to the bottom left corner.
Clint Hill (Queens Park Rangers) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Charles N'Zogbia (Aston Villa) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Clint Hill (Queens Park Rangers).
Substitution, Aston Villa. Charles N'Zogbia replaces Tom Cleverley.
Goal! Aston Villa 2, Queens Park Rangers 3. Charlie Austin (Queens Park Rangers) right footed shot from the centre of the box to the centre of the goal. Assisted by Matthew Phillips.
Foul by Christian Benteke (Aston Villa).
Joey Barton (Queens Park Rangers) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Joe Cole (Aston Villa).