A shocking mistake from David Martin gifted Bradford City all three points as they pinched a 1-0 win at the Coral Windows Stadium.
The Dons goalkeeper completely missed a straight-forward clearance to allow James Hanson to score the only goal of the game with 22 minutes to go.
Until that point, Dons had looked comfortably the better side and had the home team on the back foot.
Dons made two changes to the side which drew 0-0 with Preston in midweek, with Lee Hodson and Samir Carruthers both ruled out through injury. George Baldock and Luke Chadwick replaced them, but Karl Robinson could only name four on the bench. New boy Sanmi Odelusi, who signed from Bolton on Friday afternoon, was one of the substitutes.
Dons had a great shout for a penalty turned down after just three minutes when Izale McLeod nipped in ahead of Rory McArdle, only to have his heels clipped by the City defender, taking him to the ground. Referee Gary Sutton was unmoved by McLeod’s appeals, waving play on to the confusion and frustration of the Dons striker.
After riding an early Bradford storm, Dons began to assert themselves, with it turning the volume down on the vocal home support. Once again, Dele Alli and Stephen Gleeson were putting in some valuable tackles and breaking up any potential threats Aaron McLean and James Hanson tried to create.
Ben Reeves should have fired Dons into the lead after 13 minutes though, when Chadwick found him with time and space on the edge of the box. But his left footed strike was at a great height for keeper Jon McLaughlin, who made it look spectacular with a one-handed stop.
Dons were looking a real handful going forward, with McLeod causing a nuisance to McArdle, while Chadwick and Reeves hovered around him. Both Reeves and Powell had good strikes blocked by the City defence, and McLeod saw one cleared off the line after his quick feet twisted Carl McHugh off his feet.
The home side didn’t really create an awful lot in the first half, but took advantage of a rare slip from Jordan Spence to carve themselves an opening. With Spence slipping to the floor, it allowed Hanson the chance to drive a low ball into the area. Only half cleared by Antony Kay, Nathan Doyle slammed his show well wide.
Dons could have found themselves trailing at the break when Hanson’s volley on the spin crashed off the crossbar two minutes before half time as Bradford turned up the pressure in the closing stages.
The frenetic pace continued into the second half, where again Dons looked in the ascendency. Baldock was proving a thorn in the Bradford side as he raced forward to join in the attacks, while McLeod, Reeves and Chadwick saw a lot of the ball too, but couldn’t quite pick out the killer pass. For all their hard work in the final third, McLaughlin barely had a save to make.
City looked second best for most of the second half, but they took the lead after a shocker from David Martin. As the ball was scooped back to him, the keeper totally misjudged the bouncing ball and swung his boot at thin air. Hanson, who chased the ball down, had the simple task of rolling the ball into the empty net to give the home side an unlikely lead.
With his side now in desperate need of a goal, Robinson threw on Ryan Hall and Sanmi Odelusi.
Dons dodged a real bullet when Garry Thompson skipped past the challenge of Gleeson and raced into the area, where it looked like he was cleared out by Lewington. Gary Sutton felt the Dons skipper got a touch though and awarded the corner.
City should have doubled their lead from the corner when Hanson rose highest and powered a strong header at Martin who could only parry. With the keeper down, Hanson’s second attempt was deflected just wide of the target.
Even with six minutes of stoppage time, it wasn’t enough for Dons to make McLaughlin work.
It was a real missed opportunity for Dons to close the gap on the play-off spots, with results around them going their way. The gap to sixth now reads nine points.
Referee: Gary Sutton
Attendance: 13,501 (253)
Bradford City: McMaughlin, Darby, Davies, Hanson, McHugh, Jones, McLean (Atkinson 65), McArdle, Doyle, Reach (Dolan 90), Bennett (Thompson 55)
Subs not used: Gray, Yeates, McBurnie
MK Dons: Martin, Lewington, Baldock (Hall 76), Kay, Spence, Gleeson, Alli, Chadwick (Odelusi 79), Powell, Reeves, McLeod
Subs not used: McLoughlin, Smith
Booked: Kay, McLeod