Dons faced a second half onslaught from Oldham Athletic, but held on to secure a hard-fought 2-1 victory at Boundary Park.
George Baldock fired home his first goal for the club after just four minutes, before Izale McLeod took advantage of some dozy Oldham defending to double the advantage before half time. But a triple substitution from Lee Johnson at the break breathed new life into the home side.
Charlie MacDonald became the seventh former MK Dons player to score against his old club when he nodded in a corner 12 minutes after the restart, prompting the rejuvenated Oldham side into a frantic search for an equaliser which ultimately never came.
George Baldock’s knee injury sustained on Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Bradford was not as serious as first thought and he kept his place in Karl Robinson’s side. While the starting 11 didn’t change from the one which started at Valley Parade, there was an extra name on the bench, that of Larnell Cole who signed on loan from Fulham for the rest of the season prior to kick off.
Baldock certainly showed no signs of his injury when he fired Dons into a fourth minute lead. After Stephen Gleeson’s initial shot was blocked by Izale McLeod on the edge of the box, Baldock reacted quickest to the loose ball, rifling a low right-footed strike into the bottom corner.
The goal shook the home side into action, as Dons started to live just the right side of dangerously at the back. Passing briskly around the back four, Oldham strike pairing Jon Stead and Charlie MacDonald hovered with intent and made life hard for Jordan Spence and Antony Kay at times. Stead forced David Martin into a decent stop as he shook off his marker from a corner but for all their pressure, there was little end product.
At the other end, Kay had a header of his own headed off the line by Connor Brown and Dean Lewington fired a 35-yard free kick into the wall as Dons threatened to double their advantage, but they like Oldham, barely made keeper Mark Oxley work.
Stead really should have pulled Oldham level seven minutes before half time when he beat the offside trap, but probably didn’t realise how long he had, pulling the trigger from the edge of the box, straight into Martin’s long barrier.
And they were made to pay for the missed chance as McLeod doubled Dons’ lead before half time. Gleeson’s ball through the middle took a deflection to throw the Oldham defenders the wrong way, allowing McLeod to nip in behind and neatly roll the ball past Oxley and into the net.
Gary Harkins had two decent chances before half time, with a free kick which somehow missed everyone on it’s way out of play, and with a shot that hit the wrong side of the net.
There was still more drama to be had at the very end of the half when Ben Reeves almost wrapped it up for Dons. Oxley got a hand to his low drive from the edge of the box, but it pitched up and hit the frame of the goal before bouncing back into play, and safely into Oxley’s arms.
Lee Johnson needed to make drastic changes to his side at the break, and he rolled the dice making all three substitutions at the interval.
But it seemed to do the trick as yet another former Dons player scored against his old club. Charlie MacDonald was left unmarked at an Oldham corner and powerfully headed past Martin to reduce the deficit 12 minutes after the restart. MacDonald, who left the club just over a year ago, became the seventh former Don to score against his former club this season, after Jabo Ibehre, Ryan Lowe, Sam Baldock, Filipe Morais, David Amoo, and Lewis Guy.
Ryan Hall and debutant Larnell Cole were called upon to get Dons back into a more comfortable position, replacing Luke Chadwick and Daniel Powell - neither of which were particularly effective on the night.
It was all Oldham after the goal, as the turned up the wick in a bid to find an equaliser, but the two substitutes linked up well to create Dons’ best chance of the second half with 22 minutes remaining. Cole, with time to take it down and pick a pass, spotted the run of Hall and played him in over the top. With no-one in support, Hall took it on himself, but fired straight at Oxley.
Things started to settle after that, with the home side suddenly aware that they themselves were vulnerable to the counter attack. But they still looked dangerous going forward, and MacDonald was narrowly beaten to a low ball into the box by Martin, who was quick off his line.
There were a few more hairy moments for the visitors, as MacDonald continued to cause a nuisance for Spence and Kay, but there were few clear cut chances for the home side to get too excited over.
The victory closes the gap to the final League 1 play-off spot to six points, but Peterborough have two games in hand. Dons remain ninth in the table.
Referee: Nigel Miller
Attendance: 2,792 (54)
Oldham Athletic: Oxley, Brown, Grounds, Wesolowski, Dunfield (Dayton 45), Stead (Clarke-Harris 45), MacDonald, Wilson, Lockwood, Philliskirk (Winchester 45), Harkins
Subs not used: Mellor, Turner, Worrall, Rachubka
MK Dons: Martin, Lewington, Baldock, Spence, Kay, Gleeson, Alli, Powell (Hall 59), Chadwick (Cole 59), Reeves, McLeod (Smith 88)
Subs not used: McLoughlin, Odelusi