Karl Robinson heaped praise on midfielder Samir Carruthers for stepping into the breach to replace Dele Alli in the 3-0 win over Peterborough.
Carruthers dislocated his shoulder, popped it back in and continued playing in what was a fine performance against their fierce rivals, before being replaced late in the day.
The 21-year-old has been hot and cold since rejoining the side in the summer, but put in his best performance in an MK Dons shirt in the centre of the park, and rightfully deserved the standing ovation he received as he left the field.
Dons boss Robinson said: “He dislocated his shoulder 15 minutes before he came off. He popped it back in himself and carried on! He was in agony, and played on.
“Samir showed everyone his hunger and desire for the cause.
“We thought we were going to lose Dele in the summer, so I brought Samir in. We prepared right!”
Dons were in control from the off, as Will Grigg swept home Daniel Powell’s fourth minute cross to give Dons the lead.
An abject performance from Posh left them chasing the game throughout, despite Erhun Oztumer’s strike cannoning off the crossbar.
Ben Reeves’ spectacular brace made it 3-0 before the break, effectively killing the game as a result, but not as a spectacle.
“The players’ appetite in the first half was sensational,” said Robinson. “The team selection was right. The intensity was great, and in some ways we played even better in the second half.
“We had some great chances to score even more. This is a big game for both teams. We set out our stall very early.
“I told the players to pay back the fans, because this is the one they want. We put ourselves on the line and every second ball we fought for. The players have no energy left today.
“You very rarely get afternoons like this. The players today have put their bodies on the line and showed the fans how much they care.”
Both of Reeves’ goals were from the top draw in what was his first start since January 17. And Robinson said the Northern Ireland international is beginning to get back to the form he showed which powered him to the Player of the Year title last season.
“We have missed Ben Reeves,” he said. “You could see that when he came on against Gillingham, and then replaced Dele Alli on Tuesday against Colchester.
“We’ve had to drip feed him back in. He has been for nearly three week, but in years gone by, we would’ve had to put him straight back in.
“But we’ve been allowed to slowly bring him in when he’s ready. And he’s ready now.”
Results have shone favourably on Dons too, with defeats for both Bristol City and Swindon Town seeing Dons move within two points of top spot, while opening a gap of five points to third. And importantly for Robinson, reaching 62 points sees his side surpass the total Dons accumulated last season.
“We’re 17 points clear of seventh too,” he said. “We’ve also passed last year’s points tally with so many games to go. We’ve never been outside the top 10.
“We were without David Martin, Dean Bowditch and Dele Alli, we haven’t beaten Peterborough for a while - things were beginning to pile up against us.
“We’ve beaten Swindon here, did well against Bristol City here and now we’ve beaten Peterborough.”