DONS should have been home and dry at the interval, but had to settle for a 0-0 draw at stadium:mk on Tuesday night against Oldham Athletic.
Rowan Vine spurned the best chance when one-on-one with Latics stopper Ben Amos, but Keanu Marsh-Brown and Luke Chadwick also had great chances to give Dons all three points and strengthen their play-off position.
Boss Karl Robinson named an unchanged squad from the one that returned victorious from Hartlepool on Saturday, while Oldham boss Paul Dickov made just one change to his side after Saturday’s shock defeat to lowly Bristol Rovers, with Rueben Reid replacing Umare Toumakara.
Former Dons loan signing Filipe Morais was proving a tricky character in the opening five minutes, first with a shot from distance, then setting up Cedrick Evina who fired over.
Morais was the stand-out player for Oldham, but had his opportunities limited by Dean Lewington’s tight marking throughout.
Dons could have taken the lead inside six minutes, when a great break from Marsh-Brown saw him shrug off Evina and feed Vine on the far side of the penalty area. Vine’s powerful effort was kept out by Amos, but the follow-up header went sailing over the bar by the unmarked Luke Chadwick.
And Dons came close again five minutes later when Peter Leven’s free-kick struck the woodwork, with Amos at full stretch and nowhere near it.
Dons could have been home and dry after 17 minutes when Leven’s deep corner found Sean O’Hanlon unmarked, but his header was cleared off the line by Kieren Lee.
Marsh-Brown looked up for the battle from the off, and he terrorised both full backs as he looked to create openings for Vine in the centre.
Oldham nearly called David Martin into action with 24 minutes played, when Morais shook off Lewington and fed Lee on the flank, and his cross evaded MacKenzie, but Reid too as it zipped across the face of goal and out for a goal kick.
The game was being played at a frantic pace, and while the Latics didn’t create much in the opening half hour, they looked dangerous breaking at pace, as Dons were just that final pass away from running away from opening the floodgates.
On loan striker Vine had the best chance of the game when the assistant referee’s flag was kept down after Lewington’s pass, but Vine almost had too much time to think about the chance as keeper Amos closed the angle down and got his left leg to the shot, putting it out for a corner.
Even Mathias Doumbe was getting in on the act. Playing once again at right-back, he shaped to cross, but instead cut back inside Evina and shot left footed from the edge of the box, which Amos dived on.
Oldham’s best chance of the half came at the very end of it when Dean Furman shot through a crowd of players and had Martin at full stretch after seeing it late, but the keeper got a good hand to the ball and the sides went in level.
The start of the second half saw the visitors once again start the brightest, but create nothing going forward. Sam Mantom cut inside past Lewington and fired a brilliant effort goalwards, but it was tipped around the post by Martin. Chris Taylor nearly got on the end of the resultant corner, but Martin was a match for his header.
Mantom again went close in a carbon-copy of the earlier move, only this time aiming at the far post. Although his low shot was wide of the mark, it had Martin at full stretch.
Genuine second half chances were few and far between, but Dons began to get on top again with 20 minutes to go.
Vine, Dan Powell and Marsh-Brown were all just unable to get on the end of some clever through passes as it began to look like one of those days for the home side.
Dons threw everything at the Latics in the last 10 minutes as they looked to time-waste their way to a point - Karl Robinson looked furious when only five minutes added time was shown, and he later declared it should have been more like eight after injuries to Gary MacKenzie and substitute Danny Woodards, forced off on his return.
Powell looked as though he was hauled to the ground when he raced through on goal in stoppage time, but the referee just waved appeals away, with Powell left wondering what he had to do to win the spot kick.
But at the final whistle it was Dickov’s men who would return home the happier as Dons once again had to settle for dropped points at home.
The result sees Dons stay in sixth in League One, but facing a big challenge on Saturday as they play host to league leaders Brighton.
The fixture at the beginning of the season saw Brighton win 2-0 in a heavily one-sided game at the Withdean, and they go into the game on a five-match unbeaten run, including a 4-0 thumping of poor Plymouth as Dons were being held.