An injury-time goal by Joe Tomlinson saw MK Dons come from behind to beat Accrington Stanley 2-1 at Stadium MK.
Jack Nolan saw an early strike find the bottom corner to put the visitors in front, and for long periods, MK Dons struggled to create chances.
But the hosts equalised through Jack Payne’s free-kick and a frantic finale saw Tomlinson’s shot from outside the box find the back of the net to win the day for the home side.
Victory maintains MK Dons’ grip on a top 6 spot in the League Two table, and they sit 3 points behind the automatic promotion.
MK Dons had entered the contest looking to return to winning ways after being beaten by promotion rivals Barrow in Cumbria in their last outing. They would look to do so against an Accrington Stanley side looking to get points towards their own pursuit of the play-offs.
The Dons team did however have selection issues, with Warren O’Hora unavailable, top scorer Max Dean confirmed absent for a few weeks and fitness issues leading to Ellis Harrison and Matt Dennis starting on the bench. The Dons’ response saw them name a side featuring Dan Kemp as a false nine but with 3 strikers on the bench.
While the Dons attempted to recalibrate to their changes, Accrington caused the home side trouble in the early stages and they would find an opening goal.
The ball was worked forward for Nolan, who was able to run inside a few yards outside the box before seeing a shot trickle into the bottom corner that Filip Marschall couldn’t stop.
Tommy Leigh would see a header go off target shortly after as the first half dwindled on with neither side showing much in the way of chance creation or general attacking quality.
The Dons spent large swathes of the first half struggling to turn their possession domination into chances, with the visitors able to frustrate MK Dons’ attempts to try and cancel out the early goal. This was despite being forced into a defensive reshuffle, with Jay Rich-Bahelou taken off injured.
A few crosses from Tomlinson came close to finding team-mates, while a corner late in the first half induced a lively scramble at the back post in which Ethan Robson and Kemp had tries blocked, but for the most part, MK Dons were struggling to find a way through the away side’s defensive block.
MK Dons did have the ball in the back of the net in first half stoppage time when Kemp converted Tomlinson’s cross, but the officials ruled Tomlinson had taken the ball out of play in the build-up and the goal didn’t stand.
The same patterns continued in the early stages of the second period, as MK Dons continued to have challenges in creating chances, despite winning a few more corners. Perhaps the best saw Kyran Lofthouse plant a shot in the stands from the edge of the box.
Mike Williamson threw on Ellis Harrison and Stephen Wearne in an attempt to get MK Dons in a more productive mode, but they nearly fell further behind when Josh Woods headed wide from a cross.
But MK Dons would then find the back of the net with just under 20 minutes to go. A foul on Alex Gilbey saw the hosts win a free-kick a few yards outside the box, and Payne’s set-piece found the top corner.
This saw the Dons begin to have a more productive spell, with Payne firing just wide from outside the box before a mishit Harrison shot was kept out by Radek Vitek in the visiting goal.
Connor O’Brien then hit the side-netting for the visitors before Harrison saw a chance well denied by Vitek. Accrington’s keeper on loan from Manchester United would also make a stop to thwart Lewis Bate’s hit from outside the area.
Both sides were still pressing for a winner, and Accrington Stanley nearly got it when substitute Alex Henderson headed wide at a free-kick in the early stages of stoppage time.
Instead, MK Dons found a late breakthrough. Tomlinson’s blocked shot lead to a corner, and after an initial delivery was blocked, MK Dons worked the ball again for Tomlinson. From outside the box, he had a go that flew into the back of the net, putting MK Dons in front for the first time in the game.
MK Dons nearly found a late third when Gilbey was denied by Vitek after being found by home debutant Emre Tezgel, but the hosts were able to savour three points come the final whistle.
MK Dons: Marschall – Lewington (Norman 87), Williams, Harvie – Lofthouse (Tezgel 87), Bate, Robson (Wearne 62), Tomlinson – Payne, Kemp (Harrison 62), Gilbey
Subs not used: Kelly, Dennis, Tripp
Goal: Payne (71), Tomlinson (90+3)
Accrington: Vitek – O’Brien, Gubbins, Hills, Rich-Baghuelou (Pickles 24) – Martin (Henderson 63), B. Woods – Leigh, Bickerstaff (Conneely 45), Nolan – J. Woods
Subs not used: McIntyre, Mellor, Quirk, Adekoya
Goal: Nolan (11)
Booked: Gubbins, Martin, Conneely, J. Woods, Nolan