Austin’s kick from 12 yards was saved by the legs of Adrian following James Collins’ handball, while Richard Dunne saw his bundled effort ruled out for a foul on the keeper, leaving the hosts to rue a missed opportunity to grab three valuable points.
The result leaves them four points adrift of safety, with trips to Manchester City and Liverpool to come in the next two weeks before they host Newcastle in their final home game of the season and then travel to Leicester.
This draw then – against a dispirited West Ham team that has now won just twice in 17 games – was a huge chance lost.
They might have led inside 60 seconds as Matt Phillips nicked the ball off Mark Noble and surged through midfield before feeding Sandro, whose low shot from the angle was beaten away at his near post by Adrian.
A sparky opening to the game then saw West Ham go as close as they would all game as Reece Burke – making his Premier League debut at 18 in the heart of the West Ham defence – then met Matt Jarvis’ corner with a well-timed leap only to see his header hacked off the line.
As the game settled, so the quality dipped, with both sides struggling to create until the move of the match set up Austin’s penalty on 20 minutes – Phillips, Joey Barton and Nedum Onouha all combining to find Bobby Zamora in the box.
The former West Ham man’s first touch was poor, but the ball bounced up and as he tried to lob Adrian, so the ball hit the raised hands of Collins, leaving referee Mike Jones with one of his easier decisions of the afternoon.
Austin’s penalty was poor though, struck straight down the middle, allowing Adrian to save his third straight penalty and his miss sapped the belief from the hosts as the game meandered towards half-time – West Ham lacking the quality to expose their fragile opponents.
They did test Robert Green just after the break, Aaron Cresswell’s free-kick forcing a fingertip save from the former England keeper, but their ambition faded thereafter as QPR, led by a rambunctious Barton, searched for the elusive breakthrough.
Barton’s industry earned Sandro a sight of goal, but his shot flew a couple of yards over before Zamora bullied young Burke off the ball only to fire wide having worked a yard of space.
When they did have the ball in the net – Dunne stooping to head home from close range – it was quickly chalked off by Jones’ whistle following a foul on Adrian by Steven Caulker.
The Hammers briefly threatened on the break when Enner Valencia outpaced Dunne and squared for Cheikhou Kouyate, but he could only balloon over from 10 yards with the goal beckoning.
Back came QPR though and with time running down, Phillips’ half-volley from the angle then drew a wonderful save from Adrian while Nedum Onouha’s delicious cross somehow evaded everyone as West Ham held on, leaving the hosts to ponder on the potential cost of Austin’s penalty miss.
QPR: Green (7), Onuoha (8), Dunne (7), Caulker (7), Hill (7), Phillips (7), Barton (8), Sandro (7), Henry (7), Zamora (7), Austin (6).
Subs: Fer (6), Yun (7).
West Ham: Adrian (9), Jenkinson (7), Collins (6), Burke (7), Cresswell (7), Jarvis (5), Kouyate (6), Noble (6), Downing (5), Nolan (7), Valencia (7).
Subs: Cole (6).
Man of the match: Adrian