Dons moved to within three points of automatic promotion with a 3-0 win over Fleetwood Town on Tuesday night, while Preston could only draw with Gillingham.
Second half goals from Lewis Baker, who earlier hit the bar, Will Grigg and Dele Alli ensured all three points for Dons in an accomplished and patient performance at the Highbury Stadium.
It could have been a different story though had Gareth Evans’ strike not hit the bar in the first half.
Gillingham’s late equaliser against Preston means the gap is down to three points with four games remaining.
Karl Robinson made four changes to Saturday’s side which drew 0-0 in unspectacular fashion with Port Vale. Skipper Dean Lewington returned from injury, while in came Lewis Baker, Rob Hall and Jordan Spence at the expense of injured Dean Bowditch, suspended Samir Carruthers and Lee Hodson. Carl Baker was named on the bench after two weeks out. Former Don Adam Chicksen lined up for Fleetwood, on loan from Brighton.
There was more action in the opening 20 minutes than during the entire game at Vale Park, though it remained a fairly balanced opening at the Highbury Stadium. Rob Hall tested Chris Maxwell in the Fleetwood net within the opening 60 seconds of the game with a low drive as Dons had the better of the opening exchanges.
The home side looked threatening from wide, but Kyle McFadzean and Antony Kay looked assured at the back and mopped up almost everything pinged in their direction.
McFadzean almost put himself on the scoresheet with a speculative effort just wide, but there was nothing speculative about Lewis Baker’s strike from the edge of the box, beating everybody but the crossbar after 22 minutes.
If Lewis Baker was unlucky not to open the scoring, then Dele Alli certainly should have five minutes later. The 19-year-old found himself unmarked inside the six yard box to meet Hall’s corner, but incredibly his swing for the volley was too early and he skied it over the top.
It was a miss that almost came back to haunt him when Fleetwood rattled the frame of the goal two minutes later. David Ball made a good break down the flank and his low cross was well dummied by Ashley Hunter for Gareth Evans at the far post, but with the whole goal to aim at, smashed it against the bar.
With the sides around them beginning to edge ahead, Will Grigg had a glorious chance five minutes before half time to give Dons the lead. Latching on to Lewington’s ball over the top, Grigg turned and had just Maxwell to beat, but slid the ball wide without testing the keeper.
Fleetwood started brightly in the second half. Former Don Chicksen skipped through the defence but lashed it over the top in familiar fashion, and Gareth Evans missed a sitter after great work from Antoni Sarcevic put it on a plate for him.
But it wasn’t long though before Dons were ahead, and it came from a superb counter-attack. Having gobbled up Tyler Forbes’ cross, David Martin launched the break down the right, with Spence feeding Alli, who patiently waited for Lewis Baker’s run at the neat post to tap home the opener after 55 minutes.
With a fire lit under them, Dons nearly doubled their lead two minutes later when Grigg tested Maxwell from close range, and then again when Kay hooked the ball goalwards, only for Maxwell again to pull off a magnificent, if unorthodox, stop flying across his line.
Dons needn’t have worried too much though, as Will Grigg bagged his 20th goal of the season 16 minutes from time to make the result safe. Latching on to a long ball forwards, he shrugged off Stephen Jordan with ease before racing past Nathan Pond to roll the ball home, doubling the lead.
And it was three barely three minutes later when Alli sent a rocket past Maxwell from the edge of the box just to be sure.
With the game wrapped up, all eyes and ears were on the score at Deepdale, Leon Legge’s stoppage time equaliser meant Dons move within three points of the final automatic spot with four games to play.
Referee: Martin Heywood
Attendance: 2,757 (186)
Fleetwood Town: Maxwell, McLaughlin, Pond, Evans (Proctor 62), Morris, Chicksen, Sarcevic, Forbes, Ball (McAlinden 80), Jordan, Hunter
Subs not used: Murdoch, Schumacher, Dobbie, Moore, Wright
MK Dons: Martin, Lewington, Kay, McFadzean, Spence, Alli, Potter, Powell (Green 84), L Baker, Hall (Cole 75), Grigg (Hitchcock 78)
Subs not used: Hodson, Flanagan, C Baker, Burns
Booked: Spence, Chicksen, Kay, Alli, Proctor, Pond