Two extra time strikes ended Dons’ FA Cup campaign as holders Wigan progressed to the fourth round with a 3-1 win.
Dons led for the majority of the match after Luke Chadwick, playing for the first time since November 2, fired Dons ahead after 10 minutes. And though they had chances to extend their lead, left it open for Wigan to snatch a late equaliser, which they did through Nick Powell with 10 minutes to go.
And the on-loan Manchester United man took just two minutes of extra time to fire the holders into the lead, and Marc-Antoine Fortune made it 3-1 a minute before the interval to set up a fourth round tie with Crystal Palace.
None of Saturday’s three goal-scorers were in the starting line-up for the third round replay against Wigan, with Lines ineligible, Alli injured and Bowditch returning to the substitutes bench. Luke Chadwick and Daniel Powell came in to the side, as did Lee Hodson, who replaced George Baldock at right back.
Those expecting a repeat of the 3-3 thriller at the DW Stadium two weeks ago weren’t disappointed with the opening 10 minutes as both sides looked keen to net an early advantage. Powell, who started as the furthest forward in Dons’ attacking quartet, tested Ali Al Habsi’s gloves in the opening two minutes with a low drive, while James Perch managed to worm himself some space at the other end but his tame effort was straight at David Martin.
But it was Dons who made the break through with 10 minutes on the clock. Wigan failed to clear a simple ball into the penalty area, which Lee Hodson muscled his way to winning on the byline, and hooking the ball back into the middle, found Chadwick on the penalty spot to rifle in the opener.
Wigan though weren’t ready to have their reign as holders end that easily and proceeded to press high up the pitch, hemming Dons into their own third and smothering them when they did get the ball into midfield. Fraser Fyvie forced Martin into a full-stretch save to keep the scores level, but it was Marc-Antoine Fortune who had the best chance to equalise for the visitors after 20 minutes. Roger Espinoza, who scored a spectacular opener in the corresponding fixture, didn’t give up on a long ball over the top and hooked it back into the danger zone. With Martin at sea, Fortune should have tapped in, but shockingly scuffed his attempt well wide of the upright - a big let off for the home side.
Shaun Williams, who saw his penalty saved at the DW Stadium by Al Habsi, then forced an incredible stop from the keeper with a text-book set piece from 20 yards out. Williams bent the ball up and over the wall, and Al Habsi had to be at full stretch to get his fingertips to the ball to poke it around the post.
And the Wigan stopper made yet another incredible save on the half hour mark when a high ball fell kindly for Dean Lewington on the edge of the box, and with the outside of his boot, struck on the half volley. With the ball curling towards the far corner, Al Habsi flew across his line to punch clear.
The thrilling encounter continued to swing end-to-end, as Espinoza whizzed one wide of the post after cleverly crafting himself half a yard on the edge of the box. As the Championship side squeezed up the field, Dons had everyone bar Powell behind the ball at one point to keep them out. On sheer volume of numbers, Wigan were unable to break Dons down and had to settle for an arrears at the break.
Unlike the previous three halves of football between the sides, the second half was a slow burner. Dons looked more than happy to slow the pace and kill time, almost setting up with two banks of four to hold up Wigan’s attack as much as possible. Fyvie again came close to scoring for the visitors, and James McClean slipped at the vital moment as he shaped to pull the trigger, letting Dons off the hook.
The second half clicked back into a familiar gear with 20 minutes to go as Dons found attack was the best form of defence. Dean Bowditch, who replaced Chadwick, was key in the change, causing havoc down the left flank. He saw a cross deflected dangerously towards goal, forcing Al Habsi into yet another fingertip save.
He could do nothing about Williams’ shot from the edge of the area though, watching on as a spectator as Daniel Powell deflected it the opposite direction, but breathed a sigh of relief as it bounced off the foot of the upright and behind to safety.
But with 11 minutes remaining, Wigan found an equaliser. Chris McCann found space to cross from the Wigan left, and Nick Powell, on loan from Manchester United, darted in front of Martin to meet the ball first, poking home to send the tie to extra time.
Skipper Ben Watson was lucky to remain on the field in the dying moments of stoppage time though, cutting off Daniel Powell as he was through on goal, but only received a yellow card.
It took Nick Powell barely two minutes of extra time to put the holders in front. Send clear as the Dons defence played a high line, he neatly dinked the ball over Martin, clipping the inside of the post as it rolled over the line.
Karl Robinson used his final two substitutes, introducing Alan Smith and George Baldock for the remaining 25 minutes, replacing Carruthers and Daniel Powell.
And it was curtains for the home side two minutes before the half time break when Marc-Antoine Fortune bullied Lewington in the box, shrugging off his attempts at a challenge before firing in low into the bottom corner, making it 3-1.
Dons put pressure on Wigan in the second half, but not nearly enough to force the tie to a shoot-out, as the holders progressed to the fourth round.
Referee: James Adcock
Attendance: 8,316 (565)
MK Dons: Martin, Lewington, Hodson, Williams, Kay, Potter, Gleeson, Reeves, Carruthers (Smith 95), Chadwick (Bowditch 57), Daniel Powell (Baldock 95)
Subs not used: McLoughlin, Flanagan, McLeod, Galloway
Wigan Athletic: Al Habsi, Crainey, McCann, Watson, McClean (Gomez 72), McArthur, Espinoza, Fyvie (Nick Powell 60), Perch (Boyce 60), Barnett, Fortune
Subs not used: Nicholls, Beausejour, Garcia, Redmond
Booked: Fyvie, Espinoza, McArthur, Reeves, Baldock