An amazing fight-back from 3-0 down couldn't prevent MK Dons suffering a third straight defeat in a thriller against Carlisle at stadiummk.
Paul Ince's men looked to have come back from the dead when they wiped out Carlisle's considerable advantage, established during a crazy opening 20 minutes. Veteran Graham Kavanagh set up Kevan Hurst for a fifth-minute opener before two further free-kicks from the Irishman were headed in by Vincent Pericard. The Dons fought back before the break with two goals from the excellent Luke Chadwick, and incredibly looked favourites to go on and win when Sam Baldock levelled matters with his fourth goal of the season.
But their vulnerability to set-pieces was again highlighted on 66 minutes when another Kavanagh corner was bundled in by substitute Joe Anyinsah for what proved to be the winner. Not even the sending off of Cumbrians midfielder Tom Taiwo could help the home side recover as the men from MK saw their six-game stadiummk winning streak brought to a shuddering halt. It was an incredible 90 minutes in the wind and rain at the home of the Dons, who were hoping to bounce back from defeats at Southend and Charlton in front of a crowd of nearly 10,000. With Danny Swailes the only new introduction in central defence and new loan signing Nigel Quashie on the bench, Ince largely kept faith with the side that started at Roots Hall.
But things couldn't have started worse. The Dons actually had chances of their own before the opening goal - Baldock volleying over and Aaron Wilbraham scuffing wide in the opening few moments - but they were carved apart just five minutes in. Carlisle full-back Evan Keogh spotted some space down the right flank, firing the ball in behind Swailes for the chasing Kavanagh to retrieve. Swailes looked to have held the 35-year-old midfielder up in the penalty area, but Kavanagh found the unmarked Hurst, who had time to check past Luke Howell before beating an exposed Willy Gueret.
Danny Swailes contests a ball in the air. &nbsp; It was a body blow to the Dons' confidence, and the follow-up to the head again came from the foot of Kavanagh after Mathias Doumbe had fouled Matt Robson down the left. Kavanagh's delivery was swung in at pace and Pericard stole a march on his marker to guide the cutest of headers inside the far corner. Ince's men were on the ropes and Swailes' attempt at an uplifting haymaker - a bone-crunching challenge on Pericard on 19 minutes - only succeeded in setting up a counter that put the Dons on the floor. Kavanagh put the resulting free-kick on a sixpence, Pericard rose unmarked and Gueret had no chance with his well-placed header.
Shell-shocked at their predicament and with Swailes struggling after taking an early knock, the home side sought to steady the ship and get some kind of foothold in the game. After a series of driving runs from the left flank, Chadwick was the man to provide it on 35 minutes - driving into the bottom corner after Martin Devaney's cross had only been partly cleared.
And within a minute, Dons were right back in business. Two Carlisle defenders made a mess of another Devaney cross from the right to present Chadwick with a sight of goal, his initial shot was saved well by Adam Collin, but he made no mistake the second time after Baldock had headed down the loose ball.
They were Chadwick's first goals of the season and they couldn't have come at a better time as the momentum of the game shifted completely. Brought on between Chadwick's two goals, Quashie's early introduction assisted with the steadying process - the West Ham midfielder's experience helping to calm a situation that looked like getting out of control. The Dons would have been level before the break had Collin not superbly tipped Jason Puncheon's fierce free-kick round the post on 44 minutes.
But the Cowshed didn't have to wait long as Baldock squared things up two minutes after the interval. With three goals in his previous three games, Baldock has seized his opportunity in Ince's team of late and his fourth of the season showed all of his prodigious qualities. Dean Lewington gave defender Ian Harte a problem with a wonderful angled ball that Baldock was always favourite to reach. Harte tried to get in his way, but Baldock savagely burst past him before slotting confidently past Collin.
All to play for and most of the second half to win it in, both sides went for it - Carlisle going close as Adam Clayton stretched Gueret and Robson flashed a ball dangerously through the goalmouth. But the Dons continued to have moments of their own as Devaney's sharp volley and Chadwick's dipping shot were well saved, before Baldock fired just wide after shaking off Harte once more. It looked like positive stuff that would take the Dons to the unlikeliest of victories at one stage, but they were again undone by a set-piece on 66 minutes when Kavanagh's cross was flicked on by Pericard and in by the lurking Anyinsah.
Carlisle should have made it safe from there as Robson was denied by another excellent save from Gueret and Pericard hit the crossbar in the dying seconds from Anyinsah's square ball. But the home side continued to apply pressure in the closing stages as Puncheon saw a shot from distance well saved and Swailes planted a header from Puncheon's corner wide.
Taiwo failed to see out stoppage time when, having been booked for a foul on Chadwick in the first half, the on-loan Chelsea man was cautioned again for kicking the ball away and preventing a late Dons attack. But boss Greg Abbott was probably happy to settle for that as his side recorded only their second away win of the season.
MK Dons (4-4-2): Gueret; Doumbe, McCracken, Swailes, Lewington (c); Devaney (Easter 72), Howell (Quashie 36), Puncheon, Chadwick (Johnson 79); Baldock, Wilbraham.
Subs not used: Searle, Powell, Ibehre, Carrington.
Goals: Chadwick 35, 36, Baldock 47
Carlisle United (4-4-1-1): Collin; Keogh, Livesey (c), Harte, Horwood; Hurst, Taiwo, Clayton (Anyinsah 53), Robson; Kavanagh; Pericard.
Subs not used: Pidgeley, Murphy, Rothery, Dobie. Goals: Hurst 5, Pericard 17, 20, Anyinsah 66 Booked: Kavanagh, Taiwo, Clayton
Sent off: Taiwo
Attendance: 9,459 (327 away)
Referee: Gavin Ward (Surrey)