MK Dons were beaten by Sky Bet League One champions Sheffield United in their final home fixture of the 2016/17 season.
The Blades were clinical in their finishing – Leon Clarke and Billy Sharp (2) on the scoresheet – and that was the difference between the two sides at Stadium MK.
George Baldock and Robbie Muirhead returned to the starting XI in place of Callum Brittain and Ben Reeves, who started on the bench.
The first chance of the afternoon fell to the Blades captain Billy Sharp, who fired against the post after Chris Basham had broken into the box and crossed.
Shortly afterwards, Daniel Lafferty and Jack O’Connell tried their luck from distance – the first effort went wide, the second was comfortably saved by Lee Nicholls.
Despite not creating a chance of note as yet, the Dons were competing well with the champions and enjoying their fair share of the ball.
That provided a springboard to build on and Stuart O’Keefe fired over before Dean Lewington went agonisingly close to giving the Dons the lead, hitting the post with a curling effort from just inside the box.
A superb double challenge from Robbie Muirhead displayed the spirit on show for the men from MK1 as they continued to go toe-to-toe with the Blades.
Stuart O’Keefe threatened on 36 minutes when he chipped an effort just over Simon Moore’s far post.
However, the hosts took the lead in injury-time at the end of the first half when Leon Clarke headed in John Fleck’s corner from close range.
The Dons were almost level in the opening minutes of the second period but a superb save from Moore denied the Leicester City loanee after he’d burst through.
Robbie Neilson’s men had strong appeals waved away for a penalty on 53 minutes when James Wilson looked to have pulled Joe Walsh to the ground as he prepared for head goalwards.
Shortly afterwards, Kieran Agard headed Muirhead’s delivery over the top before, at the other end, Sharp capitalised on a short back-pass and fired past Nicholls – the goal coming just as the Dons were looking reasonably comfortable.
With just over 15 minutes remaining, Agard latched on to a through-ball and tested Moore with a fierce left-footed drive from 15 yards.
At the other end, Nicholls got down to his left to push away Fleck’s low drive but there was nothing he could do to stop Sharp making it 3-0 with 10 minutes to go after the striker fired home from 10 yards.
Barnes wasn’t giving up in his search of a goal as the Dons looked to reduce the arrears although he shot wide of the target after initially beating his marker with a smart piece of skill.
So, a defeat in the Dons’ last home game of the campaign but a huge turnaround since Neilson’s arrival – something to build on next season.
Starting XI: Nicholls (Martin 90+3); Baldock, Williams, Walsh, Lewington (c); Potter (Thomas-Asante 72), Upson, O’Keefe; Barnes, Muirhead (Reeves 86), Agard.
Unused subs: Brittain, Downing, Tilney, Rasulo.
Bookings: Potter, Walsh.
Attendance: 18,180 (7,521 Sheffield United fans).