Dons stopped the run of defeats but still lost ground in the fight for automatic promotion with a 1-1 draw against Walsall on Saturday.
Tom Bradshaw capitalised on some nervy goalkeeping from returning David Martin to head Walsall into the lead after just eight minutes, before Will Grigg equalised on his former stomping ground on the half hour.
Despite an enthralling second period, neither side could break the deadlock, though Devante Cole should have won it with the last kick of the game, but incredibly tried to cross rather than shoot.
After three defeats on the spin, Karl Robinson made a statement st the Banks’s Stadium by naming arguably the strongest team available to him. Martin returned between the sticks having missed the last six, while skipper Dean Lewington returned from suspension.
After much of the blame was put on Ian McLoughlin for the recent dip in form, Martin hardly showered himself in glory as Walsall took the lead after just eight minutes. Andy Taylor was given time to whip a ball in from the Walsall left, but as Martin came and got nothing but fresh air, Tom Bradshaw was able to head into the empty net to put the Saddlers a goal to the good.
Initially though, Dons reacted well. Their football was measured, assured and calm. But after a penalty appeal against Darren Potter was turned away, the visitors fell apart. Unable to pick a pass, or even get out of their own half, Dons because rushed and uneasy, not helped by some good pressing by the Walsall forwards to prevent the visitors from playing out from the back.
But with their first real chance of the game, they were level. After Dean Bowditch had Ben Purkiss tied in a knot, he fired a fierce ball across the face of goal for former Walsall man Will Grigg go divert into the net to make it 1-1.
And from nothing, Grigg could have made it 2-1 when he broke the offside trap to go one-on-one with Richard O’Donnell, but the keeper was quick off his line, getting a touch on the ball forcing Grigg wide - though he was adjudged to have handled in the build up.
But it could quite easily have been 2-1 the other way barely two minutes later when Dons were at sixes and sevens at the back once more, giving Romaine Sawyers space to shoot, but the striker hit the wrong side of the net.
The second half had a great tempo to it as both sides fancied their chances of snatching all three points. While Dons looked slick going forwards, Walsall too looked a real threat, especially down their left as Jordy Hiwula began to turn on the style.
Kyle McFadzean came to the rescue to clear Adam Chambers’ bullet header off the line on the hour as the home side began to mount a spell of pressure kicking towards their fans.
But as the game wore on and substitions were made, both sides became a little more direct and the tie lost it’s edge. Dons though began to get on top in the latter stage, but only really had a Daniel Powell shot just wide to speak of in terms of chances.
Devante Cole should have won it with the final kick of the game though. Slid in by the excellent Carruthers, he opted to cross into empty space rather than forcing O’Donnell into a save, much to the despair of Robinson on the touchline.
The result leaves Dons now six points adrift of the automatic promotion spots in fourth.
Referee: Sebastian Stocksbridge
Attendance: 3,887 (473)
Walsall: O’Donnell, Purkiss, Taylor, O’Connor, Downing, Chambers, Mantom, Bradshaw, Sawyers, Cook (Murphy 88), Hiwula (Forde 73)
Subs not used: Baxendale, Chambers, Flanagan, Grimes, MacGillivray
MK Dons: Martin, Lewington, Kay, McFadzean, Spence, Carruthers, Potter, Bowditch (Powell 69), C Baker, Reeves (L Baker 77), Grigg (Cole 89)
Subs not used: Hodson, Green, Hitchcock, Burns
Booked: Potter, Chambers, McFadzean