Dons are facing the prospect of another season in League 1 after a disastrous 3-2 defeat to Shrewsbury Town has left their play-off hopes in tatters.
Antony Kay’s calamitous own goal 21 minutes from time put paid to any chances Dons may have had of a well-earned three points on Tuesday night, after fighting back from 2-0 down to draw level.
Miscuing a clearance off his shin, Kay saw the ball roll agonisingly past keeper Ian McLoughlin and into his own net to end his side’s six-match unbeaten run, while making their task of getting into the play-offs even harder.
Dons looked in control from the opening whistle and surged forward to snatch an early opener. Adam Chicksen came closest to doing that when he struck a volley from 25 yards, but the ball dipped just over the bar.
But hitting Dons twice on the counter attack in a matter of three minutes, Shrewsbury somehow found themselves two goals to the good.
First, Tom Eaves bundled Shaun Williams off the ball and picked his spot from the edge of the penalty area after 16 minutes.
And Eaves was at it again shortly afterwards when he curled home another into the opposite corner – doubling Shrewsbury’s shock lead.
Changes were needed, and fast as Matt Richards almost made it 3-0, forcing a fine stop from Ian Mcloughlin.
However, Ryan Lowe’s 27th minute near-post header from a Dean Bowditch corner got one back for Dons.
Even so, Karl Robinson withdrew Mathias Doumbe and risked Stephen Gleeson for the remaining hour as Dons switched to a three-man defence, pushing Lowe higher up the field.
And the changes worked as Dons hemmed the visitors into their own half of the field, barely giving them a sniff of the ball, let alone a chance to score on the counter again.
Gleeson almost drew the scores level in stoppage time, but his powerful shot from the penalty spot was bravely blocked by a resolute Shrews defence as they took their lead in at the break.
It didn’t last for long in the second half though, as Lowe rose highest at the far post to head in Shaun Williams’ free kick just a minute after the restart.
From there, there looked to be only one winner. Dons were going all out to find the goal to put them ahead for the first time, as the visitors seemed satisfied to nick a point from the match.
Dons almost took the lead three minutes later when Bowditch burst down the right flank and sent in a low cross which Lowe couldn’t connect with. Izale McLeod reacted quickest and flashed his right boot at the ball, but it was agonisingly wide of the mark, with Chris Weale rooted to the spot.
It turned out to be McLeod’s last involvement on the night as he was replaced by on-loan Chelsea man Patrick Bamford.
Shrewsbury, try as they might, couldn’t get out of their half. Dons were in complete control, with both Gleeson and Bowditch looking threatening every time they got the ball – the latter rattling the frame of the goal when his volley dipped onto the support post behind the net on the hour mark.
However, when Richards’s aimless ball forward was put into his own net by Kay with 21 minutes remaining, heads dropped.
Weale made two wonderful saves in the dying stages from Bowditch and Alan Smith to keep Dons at bay and make sure that Shrewsbury went home with all three points.
It was a shell-shocked Dons side that left the pitch at full time, and also one that knows they will need nothing short of a miracle to make it to the play-offs this season.