It had been a combined 640 minutes since either MK Dons or Charlton had scored a goal, so it was hardly a surprise that only one goal separated the sides on Tuesday night.
Dean Bowditch’s well-placed finished in the 29th minute at stadium:mk proved to be decisive enough, but Dons’ 1-0 win over the struggling Addicks raised just as many questions as it answered.
For three months, manager Karl Robinson has promised his strikers will come good, but no-one has yet witnessed the fruits of their labours.
Sam Gallagher hasn’t kicked a ball in Dons colours in two months, Simon Church is without a goal in five and only has two goals from 20 appearances, while Nicky Maynard signed in late September, but is yet to open his Dons account.
Going into Tuesday night’s game with the hapless Addicks, smart money was on a low-scoring affair, if not a goal-less draw, especially given their triplet of 3-0 defeats.
Dons too were on the back on three consecutive defeats, but have a habit of playing without care or concern for their league position, almost carrying an air of ‘we’re better than this’ about themselves.
It has meant they’ve played without fear, and that nearly paid off against Hull on Saturday, but ultimately the league leaders put them to bed with a 2-0 win.
Taking on a team closer to their level on Tuesday night saw them dominate from whistle to whistle, but while they picked up all three points, the margin of victory should have resembled a cricket score. Comfortably better than their south-London opponents, Dons finishing left a lot to be desired - so much so that it left the door dangerously ajar.
Bowditch’s goal was a finely worked move. Breaking forwards from just inside the Charlton half, he offloaded to the inspired Samir Carruthers, but the ball was soon back at his feet as Carruthers’ one-touch pass split the defence. A touch to set it and a cool finish saw him running, arms wide, towards the sidelines in celebration.
But it was the only time Dons could afford to let their hair down. A one-goal margin is always delicate, but try as they might, the second goal simply didn’t want to come.
The killer instinct of the Championship has been plain to see in the defeats to QPR and Hull recently, but when Maynard was put through by Carruthers - who was head-and-shoulders the best player on the park on Tuesday - the ball should have nestled in the back of the net. Alas, the killer blow was more of a jab in the ribs than a knockout punch.
Bowditch did everything but score as he rattled the frame of the goal with a fierce strike, Diego Poyet scuffed a couple wide and Carruthers, by his own admission, was made to look good by an overly-acrobatic save from keeper Stephen Henderson.
Church, a second half change for Maynard, then had two glorious chances to put the game to bed, somehow putting Lee Hodson’s cross wide before squandering another one-on-one with a tame shot wide of the mark.
It meant Charlton’s rare soirees into Dons territory were seeking an equaliser rather than a consolation.
Hodson grew more than a few inches in stature as he headed Johnnie Jackson’s header off the line, and David Martin’ clutched Tony Watts’ gratefully to his chest after the striker ghosted in behind Jordan Spence - all dangerous chances that perhaps another team would have converted.
The win itself was exactly what Dons needed - beating teams in and around them will be vital throughout the season, but there is still a banquet of food for thought.
Smuggling points like this though will help Dons edge away from eating at the wrong end of the table.