MK Dons were soundly beaten by promotion-chasing Huddersfield as Jordan Rhodes' double inspired the home side to bounce back from successive defeats.
Fresh from losing their unbeaten home league record to Sheffield Wednesday by the same scoreline at the weekend, the Dons were outgunned at the Galpharm Stadium. Rhodes' predatory second-half brace killed off proceedings after first-half strikes from Antony Kay and Gary Roberts, and either side of a fine goal from Dons substitute Aaron Wilbraham - the pick of the night's efforts, albeit a consolatory one.
It was another night on which the Dons would show flashes of their potential and, with the full-force of their attacking options available, they might have troubled a Huddersfield side on edge following a home defeat to Exeter three days previously. But mistakes continue to haunt Karl Robinson's side, as the division's promotion contenders continue to show them the standard that will be required if the Dons, now 12th in the League 1 table, are to mount a realistic top six challenge of their own.
Without the likes of Sam Baldock, Luke Chadwick, Angelo Balanta and Jermaine Easter at the home of one of the division's most fancied sides, Robinson understandably took a conservative approach, with lone striker Jabo Ibehre supported by Lewis Guy. The return of Sean O'Hanlon added some strength to the backline and the big defender was needed as early as the third minute as he stretched to block superbly from the lively Rhodes. Keen to make up for Saturday's home defeat, Huddersfield were at it from the off and only a wasteful finish from Roberts prevented them hitting the front after Jamie McCombe's flick had sent him clear on six minutes.
Clearly intent on hanging in there early-on, the Dons went within a whisker of taking the lead on the quarter-hour, but Danny Woodards' header from a Peter Leven corner was hacked off the line by Joe Garner. But Huddersfield were clearly the major aggressors and only some brilliant goalkeeping kept them at bay - David Martin saving quite magnificently from Anthony Pilkington's close-range header and then from Rhodes' scuffed shot.
It looked a considerable tide for the Dons to stem, and the Terriers duly took the lead on 24 minutes through Kay, who marched in to block Mathias Kouo-Doumbé's clearance and smash past the exposed Martin. It brought widespread relief to home supporters so frustrated at the weekend and they would only have to wait eight minutes for a second - Pilkington's deep corner from the left headed back across goal by Garner and nodded in by Roberts.
Even from there it looked a long way back, but the Dons' determination to pass the ball almost defied their circumstances. They thought they'd pulled one back on the stroke of half-time after McCombe had tripped Ibehre on the edge of the box, but Michael McIndoe's free-kick hit the side of the net instead of the back of it.
Two behind and needing to stay in contention early in the second half, the Dons were dealt a bitter blow just two minutes after the restart when Rhodes effectively ended the contest. Pilkington looked short on options as he breached the box from the right, plenty of Dons defenders between him and the goal, but his pull back was picked up by Rhodes, who slammed high into the roof of the net from just inside the box.
The Terriers were in danger of cutting loose at this point and only further heroics from Martin prevented them hosing down with more than half-an-hour remaining - the Dons keeper racing out at the feet of the goal-hungry Rhodes and then stretching full-length to his left to keep out the same man's header.
Singled out for some criticism from fans in recent games, Martin's performance had deserved more than a three-nil deficit. Without him, the Dons might have been well beaten. Instead his side went up the other end and pulled a fine goal back - Wilbraham guiding a superb half-volley first-time past Alex Smithies after excellent work from fellow sub Daniel Powell and an inviting cross from Guy. Had Powell managed to advance slightly further after breaking the challenges of McCombe and Peter Clarke just after the hour-mark, his shot might have caused a few more problems for Smithies and unsettled the home side.
But with the Dons pushing forward in search of a second, Terriers sub Benik Afobe broke clear of the defence, slotted his finish against the post and Rhodes was on hand to finish the rebound. To their credit, the Dons kept coming, particularly the impressive Powell, who was heavily involved in two half-chances for Wilbraham - the first blocked by McCombe and the second, suspiciously close to a hand, by Clarke.
Now exactly halfway up the table ahead of a ten-day break before the League 1 visit of Plymouth, the Dons have some time to reflect on two results that could prove pivotal in their season. Beaten convincingly by two of the promotion favourites, Dons fans will hope these are experiences to be learned from.
Huddersfield Town (4-4-2): Smithies; Arfield, McCombe, P. Clarke, Carey; Pilkington, Johnson, Kay, Roberts (Ridehalgh 57); Garner (Afobe 57), Rhodes.
Subs not used: Bennett, Lee, Croft, N. Clarke, Gudjonsson.
Goals: Kay 24, Roberts 36, Rhodes 47, 66
Booked: McCombe, Kay
MK Dons (4-4-1-1): Martin; Woodards, O'Hanlon, Kouo-Doumbé, Lewington (c); Gleeson, Carrington (Wilbraham 55), Leven, McIndoe (Johnson 65); Guy; Ibehre (Powell 55).
Subs not used: MacKenzie, Hamann, Searle, Chicksen.
Goals: Wilbraham 56 Booked: McIndoe
Referee: David Webb (County Durham)