MK Dons threw away a 2-0 lead at the PTS Academy Stadium with Northampton Town scoring twice in the final 12 minutes to snatch a point.
Alex Gilbey and Chuks Aneke found the net in either half as Dons looked in total control against their neighbours, but when Andy Williams headed Northampton back into it, it left for a shaky end, which Junior Morias capitalised on to level in the last minute.
The result sees Dons slip further behind leaders Lincoln City, now nervously looking over their shoulders at Mansfield and Colchester just two points further back.
There was a shock inclusion in the MK Dons line-up as they looked to put right a run of three away defeats in a row. Mathieu Baudry made his first start for the club since signing in August – his only other showing was his seven minute cameo and red card at Crewe in August – at the heart of the defence, while Rhys Healey was restored to the first team as Paul Tisdale returned to a familiar 3-5-2. Ouss Cisse was left out of the squad while Lawson D'Ath dropped to the bench alongside Jordan Moore-Taylor who has been missing for most of December.
The physical battle between Chuks Aneke and Northampton skipper Ash Taylor was set up to be a highlight as the pair clashed on several occasions in the opening 15 minutes, but when the Cobblers man had hands full of Aneke's shirt, it left referee Graham Scott with no option but to award a penalty. The spot kick though was a poor one from Aneke and was well-saved by David Cornell. The follow-up though fell for Alex Gilbey to lash home this third of the season on 20 minutes.
Baudry, making his first start, was looking every bit the defender Dons were excited to announce back in the summer. His opening 45 minutes was a busy one, but his efforts were vital as he kept the dangerous Kevin Van Veen quiet, while making a string of key interceptions simply by reading the game better than his opponents.
As close as Northampton came was from the busy Taylor, heading just over on the brink of half time as Dons again showed slight frailty at set pieces.
After absorbing Northampton's early pressure, Dons began to turn the screw in the second period as they looked good value for their lead. Kieran Agard, Chuks Aneke and Conor McGrandles both had decent efforts on goal, with the Scot having the best of the chances but was denied well by Cornell.
There was nothing he could do though about Aneke doubling the lead with 22 minutes remaining. A fabulous cross-field ball from George Williams unleashed McGrandles on the right flank, whose cut back found Agard but while his strike was blocked, it fell kindly into Aneke's path who lashed it home inside from inside the six yard box to leave Cornell helpless.
Set pieces have been a thorn in Dons' side throughout the season, and it was another one which made for an uncomfortable final 12 minutes as Andy Williams got in front of his man to head in a corner at the near post for the home side.
Tisdale introduced Moore-Taylor and Lawson D'Ath late in the day, but there was little either of them could do as a long ball forwards bounced in behind the Dons back line, and Junior Morias lifted it deftly over Nicholls to share the spoils.
Referee: Graham Scott
Attendance: 6,963 (1,449)
Northampton Town: Cornell, Facey, Taylor, Williams, Van Veen (Hoskins 83), Pierre, McWilliams (Morias 72), Turnbull, Bridge, Waters (Powell 64), Crooks
Subs not used: Buchannan, Foley, Bowditch, Coddington
MK Dons: Nicholls, Cargill, Baudry, Williams, Lewington, McGrandles (D'Ath 88), Houghton, Gilbey, Healey, Agard (Moore-Taylor 83), Aneke (Simpson 75)
Subs not used: Moore, Watson, Pawlett, Hancox