First-half goals from Aaron Wilbraham and James Tunnicliffe kept MK Dons in the hunt for the League 1 play-offs as they beat rivals Swindon at stadiummk.
Paul Ince's side moved to within five points of the sixth-placed Robins with a hard-earned victory over former boss Danny Wilson - their second home win in four days. Given the perfect start by Wilbraham inside 70 seconds after an incisive run from the outstanding Luke Chadwick, the men from MK took a stranglehold on proceedings when Tunnicliffe, playing in his final game on loan from Brighton, headed in a Peter Leven corner eight minutes before the break.
And up against a dangerous Swindon attack that tried to up the ante in the second period, the Dons stood up manfully to their task - their defences only breached by an excellent Danny Ward strike deep into injury time. Ince's decision to stick with the side that saw off Leyton Orient at the weekend was justified within seconds of the kick-off. Swindon, battered a bruised after being mauled 4-0 by Bristol Rovers three days previously, started tentatively and were punished. Sean Morrison, restored to the heart of the Robins defence in place of Gordon Greer, foolishly tried to take on the ravenous Chadwick, who promptly dispossessed him before slaloming past Scott Cuthbert.
Luke Chadwick raids into the Swindon box. Former Dons trialist David Lucas did well to parry Chadwick's shot, but Wilbraham strolled in unmarked for the footballing equivalent of a gimme. Rattled by their hosts' frantic start, Swindon's defending did not portray a side fifth in the table, particularly when it came to handling Chadwick. Running at Kevin Amankwaah with energy and guile time and again, he exchanged passes with Mark Carrington on six minutes before setting up Wilbraham for a chance the big striker should have done better with.
It was the most fluent start seen by a Dons side in recent weeks and the home fans were loving it, brought to the edge of their seats once more on 12 minutes as a cross from the left, inevitably provided by the evasive Chadwick, was headed straight at Lucas by Jermaine Easter. From former Don Jon-Paul McGovern's deflected cross soon after, 22-goal leading scorer Billy Paynter shook the visitors to life with a well-struck volley off the top of the crossbar.
Dons continued to create the better chances though and once Easter volleyed over after exchanging passes with Carrington, Carrington himself squandered a glorious opening - side-footing straight at Lucas after being sent clear by Wilbraham.
The ensuing minutes were crucial to the outcome of the game as fortune deserted the visitors and their hosts capitalised at the first opportunity. Jonathan Douglas was the luckless one - seeing his shot smack the inside of Willy Gueret's right-hand post - and, from their next attack, Tunnicliffe marched unchallenged into the box to head home Leven's corner.
There was still time for Paynter to turn Ward's cross against the post once more before an eventful half was brought to an end, with Swindon boss Wilson marching down the tunnel with a torrent awaiting his team in the dressing room. Mark Randall, looking increasingly effective with Leven and Carrington in a well-balanced Dons midfield, went close to increasing their misery after turning away from two defenders five minutes after the interval.
And by the hour-mark, Wilson had seen enough of the ineffective Vincent Pericard, giving 1,000 visiting fans the man they'd been singing for since the game started - Charlie Austin. Chadwick engaged in a responsible pursuit to prevent the former Poole Town man making the perfect entrance and, five minutes later, Dean Lewington's intervention again prevented the 13-goal striker adding to his tally.
Urged to push on and kill the game by their manager, the Dons continued to step forward with intent and Randall's violently-struck shot on 76 minutes would have been a show-stopping way to finish it had it not dipped just over. Even after Wilbraham won a stoppage time free-kick deep in Swindon territory, Ince was waving players forward and Easter was fractionally off target from another excellent Leven delivery.
Ward's well-struck volley in the fourth added minute denied Gueret the clean sheet he wanted and, had Douglas not dragged wide with the very last kick, it could have been worse before the end. But, as we keep being reminded, particularly against the teams around you, it's results that count at this time of year. And the Dons are starting to find some.
MK Dons (4-3-3): Gueret; Woodards (Stirling 18 (Doumbe 85)), Tunnicliffe, McCracken, Lewington (c); Randall (Howell 85), Leven, Carrington; Easter, Wilbraham, Chadwick.
Subs not used: O'Hanlon, Searle, Davis, Morgan.
Goals: Wilbraham 2, Tunnicliffe 37
Booked: Stirling, Carrington
Swindon Town (4-4-2): Lucas; Amankwaah (Jean-Francois 85), Cuthbert, Morrison (Greer 58), Sheehan; McGovern, Ferry, Douglas (c), Ward; Pericard (Austin 58).
Subs not used: Smith, Easton, Timlin, Ritchie.
Goals: Ward 90+4
Attendance: 8,764 (929 away)
Referee: James Linington (Isle of Wight)