"The footballing gods are not with us" reflected assistant manager Karl Robinson after the Dons' home defeat to Charlton.
It's hard to disagree on this evidence. The frequent, infuriating imbalance between performance and result is nothing new in football. Its potential is what makes the game great. But, as Paul Ince put it after the game, it's happened too often to MK Dons this season. Rarely have they performed better against one of the big sides in League 1 this season.
Aggressive in the tackle, sure in possession and creative going forward, they threatened at times to avenge their 5-1 autumn defeat to Charlton at The Valley. But Nicky Forster's second-half penalty, one of four shots Charlton mustered all afternoon and the only one of any note, left them with an all-too-familiar feeling.
Winning without playing well is the trademark of teams that win promotion. On this evidence, Charlton have every chance of an immediate return to the Championship. Lacking the drive of injured skipper Nicky Bailey in midfield and the guile of leading scorer Deon Burton from their attack, the Addicks looked a far cry from the side that had blazed an early-season trail at the top of League 1.
At best they were workmanlike, epitomised by the efforts of Therry Racon and Jose Semedo in the engine-room - the a particularly destructive force. The hosts enjoyed the better of the first-half openings - skipper Dean Lewington mistiming a golden headed chance from Peter Leven's free-kick and Semedo diving superbly into the path of the shooting Stephen Gleeson.
The buzzing energy of Luke Chadwick was a major source of concern for Phil Parkinson's visitors - Kyel Reid penalised for cutting down the evasive Dons winger, who immediately took receipt of the subsequent free-kick and drilled a shot fractionally wide.
Dons 'keeper Willy Gueret had hardly been involved aside from the odd catch or kick and fielding a speculative Forster shot on 26 minutes. But had Scott Wagstaff found his bearings inside the box on 43 minutes that could have changed - the young wide-man dragging his effort horribly wide with the goal in sight. Easter brought the first of several good saves from Darren Randolph just before half-time - the Dons striker snapping into life as Charlton failed to deal with a Leven long throw.
But the second half brought the visitors a golden chance to seize the initiative on 64 minutes - Sean O'Hanlon, making his first Dons start in nearly a year following a knee injury, judged to have tripped Forster inside the box. O'Hanlon's protests fell on deaf ears, and Forster's execution was ruthless. Nose bloodied by a sucker punch, the Dons got off the ropes and launched a flurry of attacks. Eighteen-year-old Adam Chicksen
, making his full league debut, whipped in a dangerous corner from the right on 69 minutes and O'Hanlon's powerful header was brilliantly blocked by Randolph.
Aaron Wilbraham held off the challenge of Christian Dailly to head a Mathias Doumbe cross just off target on 72 before Chadwick, relentlessly knocking on the Charlton door, carved out the best opportunity of all. With 20 goals to his name this season, Easter's eyes lit up as Chadwick's sharp pass sliced Charlton open. The crowd rose in anticipation, but Randolph had read the script and darted from his line to smother marvellously at the Welshman's feet.
Another fluid move down the left involving Wilbraham and substitute Mark Randall put Charlton on the back foot again with seven minutes to go. But after exchanging passes with Mark Carrington, Stephen Gleeson's shot didn't require the same Randolph heroics.
Frustration turned to concern in the closing stages as O'Hanlon exited on a stretcher after breaking down inside his own penalty area, fears rife of a setback in his return from a knee injury. The injury turned out to be merely a flesh wound. It remains to be seen if the same can be said of the Dons play-off hopes.
MK Dons (4-4-2): Gueret; Doumbe, O'Hanlon (Woodards 88), McCracken, Lewington; Chadwick, Gleeson, Leven (Carrington 60), Chicksen (Randall 81); Easter, Wilbraham.
Subs not used: Searle, Davis, Howell, Powell.
Booked: Chicksen, Chadwick
Charlton Athletic (4-4-2): Randolph; Richardson, S. Sodje, Dailly, Borrowdale; Wagstaff (Sam 59), Semedo, Racon, Reid; Mooney (A. Sodje 75), Forster (Shelvey 75).
Subs not used: Warner, Llera, Solly, Spring.
Goals: Forster 65 pen
Attendance: 10,869 (1,903 away)
Referee: Tony Bates (Staffordshire)