MK Dons slipped four points from safety on Saturday as they lost 2-1 to fellow relegation candidates Fulham at Craven Cottage.
After an intriguing first 45 minutes, Fulham took the lead 10 minutes into the second when Moussa Dembele turned provider for Ross McCormack to roll home the opener.
Far from perturbed though, Dons were back in it nine minutes later when Josh Murphy calmly lobbed Fulham keeper Marcus Bettinelli to restore parity.
Fulham though heaped misery back on Dons though when McCormack returned the favour, turning provider for Dembele to tap home the Cottagers’ second with 15 minutes to go.
The defeat means Dons remain 22nd in the standings, but are now four points adrift.
Karl Robinson made four changes ahead of the relegation six-pointer - but their team news was overshadowed by two big injuries to David Martin and Rob Hall, who will be out for the rest of the season. Alex Revell started up front for Dons at Craven Cottage, while Joe Walsh returned after missing all of March with a hamstring problem. Jake Forster-Caskey returned from a foot injury to play alongside Darren Potter in the centre, while Dean Bowditch replaced the injured Hall.
With the stakes high, it proved to be a thoroughly entertaining opening half hour - far from a cagey, nervous affair given what was on offer. Tom Cairney for Fulham three times dragged strikes wide of the mark when he was given entirely too much time on the edge of the box as Fulham started well. But Dons came back into things as they found their feet, but struggled too with hitting the target. Dean Bowditch and Alex Revell sent shots off into the stand behind Marcus Betttinelli’s goal, leaving the keeper untested.
The home side were unlucky not to take the lead on the 25 minute mark when top scorer Ross McCormack quickly got a shot off from range, but rattled the frame of Cody Cropper’s goal with the keeper well beaten.
The home side continued to force the issue and ended the first half on the front foot. And but for Cropper, they would have ended it in the lead as he twice made great saves, first from Cairney who finally found his range, and then from Moussa Dembele, who was fortunate to get the ball at the far post, but was met with a face full of the American who made himself big.
Dons looked more of a force in the opening exchanges of the second half, but within 10 minutes of the restart found themselves behind. Dembele got into the box between George Baldock and Antony Kay, and though his initial touch took him wide than he’d have liked, he squared back to McCormack who had the simple task of tapping the home side into the lead.
The two strikers nearly put the game to bed five minutes later but forced two fine stops from Cropper, with first McCormack and then Dembele making the American fly either side to keep them at bay.
But Dons weren’t to be written off, and incredibly were level on 62 minutes. Latching on to Revell’s flick on, Josh Murphy, until that point fairly anonymous, deftly lifted the ball up and over Bettinelli to bring the visitors back into the action.
It looked as though Dons were getting back into it after equalising, making good grounds and even coming close to taking the lead when substitute Carl Baker found space on the right hand side but couldn’t beat Bettinelli.
Fulham’s strike force though would come back to have the last laugh though as they retook the lead with 15 minutes to go, this time McCormack turning provider for Dembele to side foot past Cropper.
Referee: Tim Robinson
Fulham: Bettinelli, Spearman (Fredericks 67), Madl, Amorebieta, Ream, Cairne (Smith 82)y, Parker, Ince, Tunnicliffe, McCormack (Burn 90), Dembele
Subs not used: Lonergan, Burn, Garbutt, O’Hara, Woodrow
MK Dons: Cropper, Baldock, Walsh, Kay, Lewington, Potter, Forster-Caskey (Powell 88), Bowditch (Maynard 72), Williams (Baker 56), Murphy, Revell
Subs: Burns, Long, Spence, Carruthers, Powell
Booked: Amorebieta, Stearman, Dembele