Dale Jennings and Ian Thomas-Moore both scored twice as Tranmere ensured MK Dons' fruitless run on the road continued on the Wirral.
Both sides finished a barnstorming encounter with 10 men at Prenton Park as Dons' Gary MacKenzie and Rovers' Zoumana Bakayogo saw red in a tempestuous second period.
And despite briefly levelling through Peter Leven's penalty in the first half and pulling a goal back through Sam Baldock late-on, the Dons were unable to mark boss Karl Robinson's first game in his native Merseyside with any points. Robinson was boosted by the respective returns to skipper Dean Lewington and veteran Didi Hamann from injury, bringing both players back into the side along with Leven following a one-match ban.
But his side were set about by a hungry home team in the opening stages, particularly their livewire left winger. Jennings, a 17-year-old second-year apprentice, was eager to receive the ball from the first whistle, constantly picked out by his centrally-positioned colleagues and linking well with full-back Bakayogo. He was clear as early as the third minute, racing into the left side of the box onto a ball played in behind Danny Woodards and showing composure beyond his years to slot under Martin.
It served to stoke the young man's fires and Woodards was having trouble keeping him in check - Jennings unable to head over Martin from Thomas-Moore's cross on seven minutes and then blocked by O'Hanlon as he wound up from distance.
The Dons managed to stem the tide momentarily as the frantic tempo broke to the other end - Leven letting fly from 35 yards to force a fumbling save from Peter Gulacsi. Baldock recovered the leftovers, set up Leven for a cross from the left and Marlon Broomes blocked with a hand. Leven duly did the honours, just as he had on this ground two seasons ago, lifting an infinitely-brave spot-kick in off the underside of the crossbar.
That should have served to weather the storm, but referee Colin Webster levelled up the penalty count within seven minutes - quickly pointing to the spot as Jennings, continuing to prove a handful, tumbled under pressure from Hamann. Thomas-Moore made no mistake. What followed three minutes later was a potentially game-defining moment as Tranmere scored a third - the brilliance of which was tapered somewhat by its controversy.
There could be no argument that Enoch Showunmi was in an offside position as Bakayogo volleyed forward from inside his own half. But, as Woodards missed his kick, the Rovers leading scorer raced on down the left unopposed by a flag. Dons defenders tried to recover, but Showunmi picked out Jennings on the edge of the box, who curled quite majestically into the top-right corner. Robinson's men were incensed, Hamann and Lewington leading the protests and the German was booked for his personal show of dissent.
Woodards was replaced by Mathias Kouo-Doumbé. But the goal would stand and Tranmere threatened to run away with things before the break - Thomas-Moore lifting over from Showunmi's cross on the half-hour and then rattling the outside of the post after great work from John Welsh.
The visitors began to steady the ship as a thrilling first half drew to a close and Hamann was unfortunate not to find Gulacsi dozing when he cracked a terrific volley goalwards just before the break. And after some wise words from Robinson at the interval, they came out with renewed purpose, pushing Tranmere back and looking increasingly dangerous on the attack. Lewis Guy, on to replace Hamann, was the first to open up the visiting defence - turning with a Lewington pass before bringing a flying save from the athletic Gulacsi.
And the on-loan Liverpool goalkeeper's acrobatics did not end there as he flung himself superbly to his left to keep out Leven's 30-yard blockbuster. It was a spell that promised much for the visitors, despite Martin being forced to deny Jennings his hat-trick in between, but their hopes were dealt a sizeable blow on 57 minutes. Having ventured forward to attack a set-piece moments before, MacKenzie was still advanced down the left as the Dons cleared their lines. His first challenge on Cathalina was aggressive, his second was ill-advised and Mr Webster broke up the ensuing ruck to brandish a red card.
It should have been Tranmere's clearance to go on and finish the game, but they looked reluctant to thrust the killer stroke - a Jennings free-kick into the side-netting and Joss Labadie's shot trickling just wide. That, in turn, encouraged the visitors, who were handed a further boost when Bakayogo, booked for a late challenge on Luke Chadwick in the first half, went in late on Kouo-Doumbé and joined MacKenzie in the dressing rooms.
With 20 minutes still to play, it was an error in judgement from the Ivorian that could have offered the Dons a route back into a game they should have been out of. But Thomas-Moore put the game beyond doubt seven minutes later - controlling a ball out to the left flank before imperiously finding the corner of Martin's net from a tight angle.
Beaten, but with the pride of the visiting fans still to fight for, the Dons continued to plug away, determined to stick to their passing game and, had the chips fallen their way, might have made a fist of it. Gulacsi made another wonderful save to deny Baldock on 77 minutes before Leven, sights well and truly set, smashed the face of the crossbar with a piledriver from 25 yards.
Baldock managed to make some inroads when he turned home his fifth of the season from substitute Jemal Johnson's low cross.
Tranmere Rovers (4-3-3): Gulacsi; Cathalina (Darville 86), Broomes, Goodison, Bakayogo; Welsh (c), Blanchard, Labadie; Thomas-Moore, Showunmi (Akins 83), Jennings (Fraughan 83).
Subs not used: Collister, Power, Morrow, Grandison.
Goals: Jennings 3, 25, Thomas-Moore 22 pen
Booked: Bakayogo, Welsh, Fraughan
Sent off: Bakayogo 69
MK Dons (4-3-3): Martin; Woodards (Kouo-Doumbé 28), O'Hanlon, MacKenzie, Lewington (c); Gleeson (Johnson 74), Hamann, Leven; Baldock, Wilbraham, Chadwick.
Subs not used: Easter, Carrington, Searle, Chicksen.
Goals: Leven 14 pen, Baldock 84
Booked: Hamann, Baldock
Sent off: MacKenzie 57
Referee: Colin Webster (Tyne & Wear)