Skipper scores the opener and is then sent off for violent conduct after a coming-together with Bradley Johnson before Norwich scores an equalizer and late winner
Goals from Anthony Pilkington and Steve Morison sealed the victory for the visitors, but the hosts will be questioning both the referee's performance and what might have been if their skipper had not been ejected from the field.
The home support would have to wait for their first taste of on-loan Manchester United striker Federico Macheda, who was named among the substitutes by Neil Warnock.
Heidar Helguson reclaimed his role as the loan striker following his one-year contract extension signed just before the New Year among one of five changes to the team who suffered a 1-0 defeat to Arsenal.
For Norwich there was a starting role earned by Simeon Jackson for his weekend heroics against Fulham, as he earned the Canaries a point with their only goal of the game, as well as a first Premier League start for Simon Lappin.
The game stqarted slowly, and the visitors looked to be the ones settling well initially, but they went behind in the 11th minute with QPR captain Barton finding the back of the net.
A simple pass over the top for Jamie Mackie to run onto and cross was all it took to undo the Norwich defense. His ball was behind everyone in the box, but Barton running in from the wing was on hand to rifle the ball past John Ruddy.
The visitors were on the front foot for quite a large patch of the first half, but were failing in their attempts to test Paddy Kenny.
For the hosts, Adel Taarabt was in his element, keeping the ball with some dazzling skills.
Norwich's first real chance of the match came and went just after the half-hour mark as Jackson failed to make a proper connection with Elliot Bennett's cross, with the ball rolling harmlessly wide of Kenny's left-hand post.
The match had been threatening to boil over for some time before it eventually did, and it was Barton again who was at the center of the controversy.
The QPR skipper was caught after passing the ball by Lappin, and while the players jostled in the follow up, he appeared to aim a headbutt at Norwich's Bradley Johnson.
Referee Neil Swarbrick consulted with his linesman and proceeded to send off Barton for violent conduct.
The misery was compounded for QPR minutes later as Pilkington found the bottom corner with a rasping drive from just outside the box following some good build-up play from the visitors.
The away support were certainly the happier supporters at the break, with a rasping set of boos from the home fans aimed at the referee and his assistants.
Warnock responded at halftime by withdrawing Mackie for Shaun Wright-Phillips and pushing Taarabt wide on the left. The change almost brought a goal in the opening minute of the half, with the winger forcing a save from Ruddy low to his right.
Ruddy was again forced into action minutes later as Taarabt clipped a free kick over the wall and towards the corner; the 'keeper was equal to it though, at full stretch to push the ball onto the post with a fine save.
Jackson then forced a stop from Kenny at the other end, drilling a shot towards the bottom corner that the goalkeeper did well to get down to and stop.
Norwich was undoubtedly the team on the up, and a triple subsitution that involved moving the formation to 3-4-3 helped to make the team more dangerous, with Steve Morison replacing Holt for some added mobility.
And Norwich finally took the lead in the 83rd minute. Wes Hoolahan, on from the bench, put in a fine cross from the left to the back post, and Pilkington's knock down left Morison with the easy task of knocking the ball home from the six-yard box.
On the balance of play, it was perhaps a deserved three points for the visitors, though the home side will be wondering what might have been if its captain had not left the field far too early.