Shaun Maloney's late equaliser grabbed a vital point for Wigan to leave QPR heartbroken in their quest for Premier League survival.
QPR faced an uphill task from an early stage as Bobby Zamora was sent off for a high challenge on Jordi Gomez and Wigan dominated, with the Spaniard and Callum McManaman going closest before James McArthur missed a glorious opportunity.
Loic Remy's sublime strike with just five minutes left had the home side on the verge of three crucial points but Maloney's late intervention stunned Loftus Road as the match finished 1-1.
Andros Townsend proved a problem from the outset for Maynor Figueroa with his direct approach and produced a couple of teasing crosses as QPR sought to gain an early advantage.
It was largely an end-to-end affair and Wigan were the first to register a meaningful effort, with McManaman testing Julio Cesar with a low effort.
It was Rangers who threatened next and came within inches of grabbing a vital lead.
A lovely move from the hosts involving Junior Hoilett and Remy resulted in the latter picking up the ball 25 yards out before unleashing a devastating strike which came cannoning back off the upright with Joel Robles in the Wigan goal stranded.
While QPR had come closest, Wigan were happy to dictate possession and with Harry Redknapp's men already chasing shadows, what happened next gave the strugglers an even bigger mountain to climb.
Zamora needlessly clattered into Gomez with a reckless challenge and, following consultation with his assistant, gave the striker his marching orders.
Townsend was proving the only bright note of the afternoon for Redknapp and following more tricky play from the on-loan winger, he freed Remy but the Frenchman was ruled to be offside.
The Latics continued to monopolise the ball and began to get into good attacking positions, with Gomez and McManaman both firing in shots at range at Cesar before the latter screwed just wide following delicate build-up play.
The winger clearly fancied his chances against Armand Traore and drove in another shot just wide after beating the Frenchman with ease but Rangers were able to hold out until the interval.
Roberto Martinez's men kept up the heat straight from kick-off at the start of the second half though, with the home side having to withstand wave after wave of Wigan attacks.
Hoilett, Remy and Townsend were all providing willing runners for QPR but their team-mates were struggling to string together a succession of passes. Redknapp reacted by hauling off Hoilett and throwing on Adel Taarabt as he sought a saviour.
The Moroccan almost made an instant impact as his swerving cross found the head of the alert Remy, but he could only steer his effort just wide of Robles' far post.
Townsend sent a dipping free-kick just over before Wigan mustered up an even better chance.
Maloney wriggled away from Nedum Onuoha and sent an inviting centre across for McArthur, who somehow contrived to head straight at the grateful Cesar.
The game was fitting the end-to-end tone it had set in the opening period and just when the game appeared to be fizzling out, Rangers struck.
A Wigan free-kick was charged down by Stephane M'Bia, who charged half the length of the pitch before releasing Remy, who, with his first touch, sumptuously smashed the ball beyond a surprised Robles to give Rangers a crucial lead.
It looked like they would hang on as they held out resolutely but Maloney would have the final laugh.
The Scot sent his free-kick dipping up and over the wall and into the bottom corner past a statuesque Cesar to silence a hostile QPR faithful and seal a point for the Latics.