The winger plucked the ball out of thin air and laid the goal on a plate for Ward to get his Reds tally started.
Forest were rarely troubled by their visitors but there was concern for Henri Lansbury who, shortly after coming on as a substitute, was stretchered off after an awkward fall.
The Reds will learn their fourth-round opponents in Monday night's draw.
Dougie Freedman handed Chris Cohen his first start since recovering from a serious knee injury, while Gary Gardner also started the match after arriving for a second spell on loan from Aston Villa.
Kelvin Wilson partnered Jack Hobbs in central defence with Michael Mancienne at right back, while Robert Tesche was given an opportunity to impress alongside Gardner in central midfield. Dexter Blackstock captained the side with Ward providing his support up front.
Freedman had plenty of options on the bench with Lansbury, Eric Lichaj, Ryan Mendes, Chris Burke, Tyler Walker and new signing Bojan Jokic available to him.
Forest took the lead with the first real opportunity of the half. Burke, who had already shown his threat down the right, superbly controlled a long ball near the touchline and burst towards goal, leaving QPR's defenders in his wake. He rolled the ball towards the far corner where Ward was on hand to slide in and give The Reds a 24th-minute lead.
It was proving to be a comfortable afternoon for Forest goalkeeper Dorus de Vries, who appeared decidedly unconcerned as Daniel Tozser's 34th-minute free-kick sailed wide of his goal.
The final action of the half saw Michael Doughty join Grant Hall in the book after he hauled back Burke as the Hoops desperately sought a way to halt the pacey wide man.
Freedman sent his side back out for the second half unchanged and within three minutes of the restart Wilson had to be on hand to block Jay Emmanuel-Thomas' goalbound shot, positioning himself well to divert the ball out for a corner with his head.
The Reds' first shot of the half came from Burke, who nudged the ball away from a QPR player in central midfield to open up space for a long-range shot. He could only send the ball high and wide.
QPR's response came from Doughty, who received the ball on the edge of the area courtesy of substitute Tjaronn Chery's cut back. Doughty took one touch before attempting to bend the ball into the top corner but he got his effort horribly wrong.
The second half was proving to be a more open affair and Ben Osborn nearly had an excellent assist with an hour on the clock. He did brilliantly to beat two QPR men to reach the byline, standing the ball up nicely in the middle. Hoops keeper Joe Lumley was first to it and Gardner's first competitive appearance of the season came to an end shortly afterwards when he was replaced by Lansbury.
It's often been the case this season that de Vries has had to pull off a spectacular save in a match when he's had little to do, and that trend continued as he did brilliantly to divert Gabriele Angella's powerful header over the bar following a 66th-minute corner.
Freedman's second change saw Cohen replaced by Lichaj at left back and the manager was forced into another substitution when Lansbury was stretchered off after falling awkwardly with 15 minutes to play. Jokic came on to make his debut as Lichaj switched to right back, with Mancienne filling in in central midfield.
Eight minutes were added on at the end of the match but Forest saw them out comfortably to progress to the fourth round.
Forest: De Vries, Cohen (Lichaj 71'), Hobbs, Wilson, Mancienne, O.Burke, Osborn, Tesche, Gardner (Lansbury 62' (Jokic 80')), Ward, Blackstock (c)
Subs not used: Evtimov, Mendes, C.Burke, Walker
Goal: Ward 23'
QPR: Lumley, Onuoha, Hall, Hill (Perch 68'), Angella, Emmanuel-Thomas, Luongo, Tozser (Chery 53'), Gladwin, Doughty, Mackie (Petrasso 62')
Subs not used: Brzozowski, Faurlin, Polter, Hoilett,
Bookings: Hall 18', Doughty 44'
Referee: Oliver Langford
Attendance: 14,197 (1,187 away)