Aston Villa rescued by Christian Benteke's treble against Queen's Park Rangers
Aston Villa 3-3 QPR
Christian Benteke's hat-trick rescued a crucial point for Aston Villa in a thrilling 3-3 draw with relegation rivals QPR.
The striker levelled to complete his treble with just seven minutes to go after QPR looked to have done enough to climb out of the bottom three and leapfrog Villa.
Clint Hill and Charlie Austin had fired Rangers 3-2 ahead after the break following Benteke's first-half double. He had cancelled out Matt Phillips' opener, but the draw did little for either side's survival hopes.
Villa moved three points clear of the Premier League relegation zone while Rangers climbed to third bottom, still two points from safety.
Villa boss Tim Sherwood had predicted a full-blooded attacking game and Rangers, lifted by their second away win of the season at West Brom on Saturday, fulfilled their part in a breathless first half by opening the scoring after seven minutes.
Austin's cross was not cleared and Bobby Zamora picked up the pieces to centre for Phillips to nod in unmarked from six yards.
Yet Villa levelled just 151 seconds later when Fabian Delph played in Benteke and the striker was given too much time to cut in from the left and his shot deflected off Steven Caulker and past Rob Green.
Villa completed their first-half comeback when Benteke grabbed his second after 33 minutes. Carlos Sanchez's tackle on the edge of his own box fell to Gabby Agbonlahor to send Benteke clear.
The striker still had to run the length of the half but he cut inside Hill and sent Green the wrong way with a magnificently composed finish from 16 yards.
Rangers had offered little threat since going behind but Hill headed in his first Premier League goal from Phillips' corner after out-muscling Ciaran Clark.
The teams conjured an epic finale when Austin edged Rangers ahead with 12 minutes left.
Again, Phillips was involved as he wriggled free on the right and found the forward in space to rifle under Guzan from seven yards, but Benteke clawed Villa back again five minutes later when he curled in a 25-yard free-kick off the post after Charles N'Zogbia had been felled by Hill.
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