Ryan Seager netted a dramatic late winner as MK Dons beat Rochdale 3-2 at Stadium MK on Saturday.
Trailing after just eight minutes to Brad Inman's opener, Gboly Ariyibi bagged a brace - including a fantastic second - to give Dons the lead shortly before half time. But Matt Done poked in after a goal-mouth scramble to ensure parity at the break.
Substitute Seager latched onto Ouss Cisse's ball over the top though with five minutes remaining to bend the ball past Brendan Moore to win it.
Despite criticising George Williams and Scott Wottton after Tuesday's defeat to Peterborough, Robbie Neilson named the two as centre backs again for the visit of Rochdale, instead making four changes further up the field. Osman Sow, Gboly Ariyibi and Aidan Nesbitt returned to the side, as did Ed Upson to sit in front of the defence.
Neilson's comments drew criticism from some quarters of the fanbase after losing to Posh, but his words will have been ringing in the ears of both Wootton and Williams inside the opening eight minutes when a routine ball managed to split the two, and Brad Inman was left with a simple finish from 12 yards to give Rochdale the lead.
It would be short lived though as Dons restored parity four minutes later when Sow picked out Ariyibi at the far post to rattle past Brendan Moore.
The shaky start aside, Dons looked the better side in the opening half hour. Ariyibi, who had had a mixed start to life at Stadium MK, popped up on both flanks to cause issues for the Dale defence. And his second goal of the afternoon, coming four minutes before the interval, showed the class he has in his locker. Nutmegging his marker 25 yards out, he took another touch before firing in from the edge of the box to hand Dons the lead.
While he was the focal point going forwards, he had to do better at the other end of the pitch just a minute later. The goal-scorer didn't do enough to keep Inman from getting a ball across, and in the melee in the area, Matt Done got the final touch to poke in Dale's equaliser.
As the rain battered down in the second half, it didn't dampen the game's back-and-forth nature. Nicholls was twice called into action by Steven Davies - first from a free kick which he expertly kept out, while the second appeared to hit the Dale man, but still needed the keeper to be alert to it.
Ariyibi meanwhile remained Dons' most potent outlet, but was coming acropper to the visitors' more physical approach towards him as they looked to foul, rather than deal with him. It was an approach that worked though, as Ariyibi's influence on the game waned as time wore on though Dons' considerably more direct approach effectively ruled him out too.
But with Ryan Seager, Kieran Agard and Ouss Cisse called upon in the latter stages, the trio combined to win it for the home side. Agard won the ball on the flank, fed Cisse on half way, and Seager raced onto his brilliant ball over the top, out-muscled two Rochdale defenders and bent the ball past Moore's dive to secure the win for the home side.
Referee: Gavin Ward
Attendance: 7,670 (261)
MK Dons: Nicholls, Brittain, G Williams, Wootton, Golbourne, Upson (Cisse 70), Tshibola (Agard 62), Gilbey, Ariyibi, Nesbitt (Seager 69), Sow
Subs not used: Sietsma, Lewington, Muirhead, McGrandles
Rochdale: Moore, Rafferty, McNulty, McGahey, MK Williams, Rathbone, Done, Inman, Davies (Slew 82), Cannon (Camps 64), Bunney (Ntlhe 57)
Subs not used: Lillis, J Williams, Daniel, Gillam
Booked: McGahey, Cannon, Gilbey