MK Dons saw their League 1 play-off hopes disappear at Bristol Rovers as the West Country side recorded their first ever win over the men from MK.
Jo Kuffour's fortunate second-half goal broke Rovers' Dons duck - the Gas having failed to register a win in any of the two clubs' previous five encounters. But 'keeper Mikkel Andersen was the real hero, producing a string of superb saves to frustrate Paul Ince's visitors - the pick of them from the penalty spot where he denied the usually-reliable Jermaine Easter.
The Dons' disappointment was compounded in stoppage time as defender Mathias Doumbe was sent off for a second bookable offence. It was a result that left Ince conceding defeat in the race for the top six, with half-a-dozen games to go. But the Dons manager's overall outlook must surely remain positive, having seen his side continue to take giant strides in their development. Just as they had been against Charlton on Saturday, the Dons were excellent in possession - fluidly moving the ball around the park and carving out chances that should have earned them at least a share of the spoils.
Thoroughly the better side for sustained periods of the game, they remain easy on the eye, but have developed the unenviable habit of losing when playing well and rarely winning when they don't. But Ince is building long-term foundations and, on the evidence of recent weeks, the final structure could be something special to behold. Granted, results have not been as consistent as he would like at this stage, but the confidence with which the Dons moved the ball, and their opponents, was a joy to behold at times.
Short of key personnel in Peter Leven and goalkeeper Willy Gueret, the latter missing his first game of the season, their determination to play the game in the right way was unwavering. Stuart Searle, Gueret's replacement and a Football League debutant at the age of 31, got a confidence-boosting start when he acrobatically tipped Darryl Duffy's dipping volley over the bar. It was one of the few attacks Rovers had in a one-sided first period.
With the in-form Luke Chadwick at its attacking tip, Ince's diamond-shaped midfield hummed with enthusiasm - Chadwick's clever movement complimented by the passing of Mark Carrington and the elegance of Mark Randall. Stephen Gleeson called the tune from its base and the Dons were ticking. Randall drove just over the bar after exchanging passes with Chadwick, who saw his own effort blocked by Steve Elliott a few minutes later.
Dean Lewington joined in, advancing forward from full-back and almost finding the head of Aaron Wilbraham before Andersen clawed clear. Not to be outdone, Danny Woodards followed Lewington's lead from right-back, charging down the opposite flank and drilling in a low cross that pinballed around the six-yard box before Randall was eventually denied by Andersen.
Elliott survived a big penalty shout from Easter as the pair chased Randall's ball into the box on 23 minutes and eight later, the big Rovers defender should have been punished by Carrington, who found the stands rather than the net when Elliott's poor clearance arrived at his feet 17 yards out.
Rovers survived another penalty shout before the break as Easter tumbled after nutmegging former Don Dominic Blizzard down the right, with Easter booked for apparent simulation, and Wilbraham worked Andersen again as Pirates prayed for the break. Undeterred by the wind in their face in the second half, the Dons continued to look the more likely after the interval, but the game changed on 55 minutes after Doumbe collected his first caution for a foul on Jo Kuffour.
Chris Lines' resulting free-kick came straight back to him 25 yards out off the face of Carrington, allowing the Rovers midfielder another chance to shoot. Shoot he did, but it was Kuffour's unknowing intervention that took the ball beyond Searle - the Ghanaian taking evasive action as Lines' strike flew towards him.
Dons defenders protested that Kuffour was offside, Searle and David McCracken earning cautions for their part, but it shouldn't have mattered for long as Chadwick was needlessly tugged to ground by Danny Coles as he tried to let the ball run out for a Dons corner. With 20 goals to his name already this season, two of them from the spot, Easter looked favourite, but saw his side-footed effort pushed against the post by Andersen at full-stretch. Gleeson's departure on a stretched after sustaining a knee injury added further to Ince's woes and, as his side committed bodies forward in search of an equaliser, the inevitable counter-attacks followed.
Kuffour stretched Searle once more with a deft lob from Carl Regan's pass and Ben Swallow was close to getting on the end of a cross from substitute Andy Williams. Mark Randall evades Rovers defender Danny Coles. &nbsp; But the better chances continued to be engineered by the men in red and Chadwick fired wastefully over after a clever exchange with Luke Howell, on to replace Gleeson, with five minutes to go. Forward they came once more as Randall sought out Lewington in the left side of the box and the skipper's deft cross was met by the arriving Easter.
Andersen repelled it and Randall's rebound was well off target. And their misery was complete five minutes into added time when Doumbe, desperate to win back possession to begin another attack, jumped in on Kuffour to earn a second caution.
Bristol Rovers (4-4-2): Andersen; Regan, Coles, Elliott, Jones; Blizzard (Reece 87), Lines, Campbell (c), Swallow; Duffy (Williams 57), Kuffour.
Subs not used: Evans, Wright, Clough, Richards, Clarke.
Goals: Kuffour 55
Booked: Regan, Williams
MK Dons (4-1-2-1-2): Searle; Woodards (Powell 89), Doumbe, McCracken, Lewington (c); Gleeson (Howell 68); Carrington, Randall; Chadwick; Easter, Wilbraham.
Subs not used: Davis, Chicksen, Flanagan, Williams, G. Baldock.
Booked: Woodards, Easter, Doumbe, Searle, McCracken, Randall
Sent off: Doumbe 90+5
Attendance: 6,406 (248 away)
Referee: Keith Stroud (Hampshire)