STOKE CITY maintained their unbeaten start to the season on the road with a thoroughly deserved 2-2 draw at Loftus Road but were left to rue several spurned opportunities to have claimed maximum points for the second successive away fixture.
The Potters, who had taken four points from their opening two away trips, looked to be firmly on course to take that tally to seven when Mame Diouf netted his second goal of the term after just ten minutes.
That lead should have been extended further when the Senegalese international twice found himself well positioned, whilst Peter Crouch hammered an effort agonisingly wide after a superb counter-attack.
Those missed efforts came back to haunt the visitors right on the stroke of the half-time whistle when the fortuitous Steven Caulker saw his set-piece header inadvertently sliced into his own net by the luckless Crouch.
The England ace did atone for his error six minutes after the break by thumping a sublime effort into the roof of the net from 10-yards following a superb ball across the penalty area by the impressive Victor Moses.
Steven Nzonzi should have done better when he was presented with a chance to double the advantage soon after, but his strike lacked conviction and direction and it harmlessly brushed past Rob Green’s post.
Further opportunities came Stoke’s way as they looked to kill the game off during the latter stages, however, Croatian international Niko Kranjcar broke Stoke hearts right on the stroke of the full-time whistle with a stunning 25-yard free-kick that flew into the top corner of the net.
Prior to kick-off Mark Hughes opted to make two changes to his starting eleven for what was his first visit back to Loftus Road since being dismissed as manager early in the 2012/13 Barclays Premier League campaign.
The Welshman handed Charlie Adam his first league start of the term at the expense of Bojan, whilst Diouf was named in the team with Jonathan Walters failing to recover from an injury in time to feature on what was his 31st birthday.
Rangers boss Harry Redknapp made four changes of his own as he looked to inspire his side to a second victory of the term having succumbed to a 4-0 hammering by Manchester United at Old Trafford six days earlier.
Hughes was met by a lukewarm reception when he patrolled down to the tunnel ahead of kick-off, but it was he and not the 15,000 or so home supporters who was up on his feet early on when a superb move was finished with real aplomb by Diouf.
Moses, who cut a real imposing figure throughout the encounter, was proving a real handful to Rio Ferdinand and his fellow defenders with his pace presenting several further openings during what was an action packed opening.
Diouf was also utilising his pace to get in behind the hosts backline, but firstly, he failed to strike an effort at goalwards, allowing Caulker to clear his lines, whilst moments later his attempted ball across to Adam fell inches behind the Scotland international.
At the other end Kranjcar looked the most likely Rangers player to worry Begovic, but on the two occasions he forged openings for himself he was unable to test the Bosnian, firing his strikes wide of the post.
Redknapp was clearly frustrated as his side continued to allow openings to the visitors with Moses forcing Green into a smart save down to his right eight after superbly bursting down the flank and cutting inside eight minutes before the break.
Hughes was exasperated himself right on the stroke of half-time when Caulker rose highest to meet Kranjcar’s corner and head towards goal, leaving both Adam and Crouch unable to hack the ball off the line, with both feeling aggrieved not to have done better.
It was the Potters who continued to look the brighter side early in the second half with Nzonzi firing wide after more neat and tidy play through the centre of the pitch, whilst Ryan Shawcross was inches away from meeting Moses superb centre.
Dutch international Erik Pieters gambled and found himself through on goal, only for his composure to let him down when he should have done better than to fluff his strike into the hands of Green from 10-yards.
A second goal did finally come though, and again it was the inventiveness of Moses that played a pivotal role in Crouch thunderously meeting the Nigerian’s clever ball into the box, leaving Green helpless on his line.
Nzonzi had a chance to put the game to bed when he was teed up by Adam 15-yards from goal, but with the goal at his mercy he side-footed his effort inches wide of the post.
Begovic was called into action at his near post midway through the second half - producing a good save down to his left to thwart susbtitute Bobby Zamora, but right at the death, just as the players looked set to celebrate their second triumph of the term, Kranjcar rifled home a sublime free-kick to secure the hosts a point.