A Sam Baldock second-half hat-trick saw MK Dons come from behind to beat Colchester United 3-1 and maintain their hold on a League 1 play-off place.
Baldock, on his first start for the Dons since January 8th, became the first academy product to register a treble for the Club in an impressive fightback by Karl Robinson's men.
Steven Gillespie had fired Colchester into the lead with a first-half strike, but the Dons came out much brighter after the break and tore the U's apart with Baldock's turn of pace and deadly finishing proving the difference between the two sides.
Baldock levelled the scores just three minutes into the second-half when he finished a wonderful move which involved the majority of the Dons team and Colchester could easily have added further to the scorline but Gillespie, Andy Bond and Ashley Vincent were all guilty of missing guilt-edged chances.
And the Dons made them pay as Baldock finished a through ball from Daniel Powell and pounced on a parried effort four minutes from time to complete his hat-trick.
Sam Baldock gets the better of Matt Heath
The fourth straight victory for the Dons leaves Karl Robinson's men in sixth with an eight-point cushion in the play-offs, and just two points from the automatic promotion spot.
The Dons were dealt a huge blow in the warm-up when goalkeeper David Martin suffered an ankle injury which forced a late change to the starting line-up with Stuart Searle coming in for only his fifth Football League start.
The Dons were already missing Keanu Marsh-Brown due to a groin injury, but there was a boost with Baldock returning to the starting 11 and Angelo Balanta among the substitutes after four months out following ankle surgery.
With Baldock back in the fold it allowed Robinson to tinker slightly with his side, they stuck with their familiar 4-2-3-1 formation but Luke Chadwick moved out to the wing so Rowan Vine could drop back into the free-roaming role behind Baldock, who lead the line.
Colchester's defeat to Dagenham and Redbridge in midweek saw the U's fall 10 points behind the Dons in the chase for the play-offs. Knowing a result in their favour would help claw back the deficit the U's tried to make life awkward from Robinson's men from the offset.
Luke Chadwick sparkles on the left wing
Their direct approach caused a few nerves in the opening minutes when Ian Henderson latched on to a long throw, but Gary MacKenzie was alert to make the block.
The Dons were focusing their efforts down the left channel as Chadwick cut inside to slip the ball through for Baldock, the striker showed an intelligent touch as he flicked an effort from the outside of his boot just inches over.
From there Colchester had a spell of pressure in front of the Dons goal, as Searle was called to make a stop at his near post from Anthony Wordsworth's free-kick in the 13th minute and moments later Gillespie failed to get the nod on to a dangerous delivery from Henderson.
Kayode Odejayi looked set to break the deadlock when he broke free in the Dons&nbsp;half and only had Searle to beat, however, the goalie made the brave decision to time a tip away at the striker's feet to perfection to null the threat.
Rowan Vine takes on David Perkins
It proved to be an absorbing game at the Weston Homes Community Stadium as both sides began to create chances. A counter-attack, started by Chadwick on the edge of his box, caused problems for Colchester and a misplaced pass was picked off by Danny Woodards, who then crossed into the box with pace but Baldock was unable to arrive in time to tap home.
From there Colchester edged closer to registering the first score of the game when Gillespie, who was proving to be a handful for the Dons, ghosted through to pick up a long ball and after being dragged out to the byline powered a shot at Searle. The ball bounced off his body, but fortunately for the Dons Odejayi failed to find the touch in the follow-up.
But that man Gillespie cropped up again in the Dons box and this time the defence could not keep tabs on the experienced forward as he found the finish to fire Colchester in front. The move started at the left touchline where Wordsworth played a cross deep into the box for Odejayi to nod down to his strike partner. Gillespie had work to do as he controlled on his chest before digging out the shot to beat Searle.
Despite taking the lead, Colchester far from bossed proceedings but the Dons lacked clear cut chances. While the U's were able to take advantage of the Dons' nervous defence, the visitors struggled to make the most of their play in the final third.
The Dons got the dream start to the second-half when Baldock netted his third in as many games to level the scores. Some wonderful build-up play from the Dons, which saw an array of players enjoy a touch of the ball, carved an opening for Baldock who showed a quick turn of pace to knock the ball beyond Matt Heath, and he calmly slotted into the bottom corner.
Sam Baldock netted his first professional hat-trick
Just seconds later Colchester could well have regained their lead had it not been for a top block from Searle. Once again Gillespie was able to get the better of Kouo-Doumbe to send a low shot goal-bound, but Searle made himself big and his outstretched right leg did enough to turn the ball off-target.
At the other end the U's goalkeeper Ben Williams was then called on to keep the scores all square when Chadwick hooked the ball into the path of Baldock, at the edge of the area he forced a great tip away before calling on another save from the keeper with a point-blank shot.
John Ward's side piled forward and twice went within inches over regaining the lead when Odejayi slipped through on left and, under the challenge of MacKenzie who injured himself in the process, produced a weak shot that trickled dangerously close to the goal line before Kouo-Doumbe knocked the ball clear.
From the resulting corner, with Sean O'Hanlon on in place of MacKenzie, the Dons were pulled apart and Gillespie was given the golden opportunity to net his second of the game only to stab wide with the goal at his mercy.
Colchester would go on to curse the missed opportunity as the Dons showed their ability to cut teams open. As the Dons broke down field Powell, celebrating his 20th birthday, found the inch-perfect pass to release Baldock, once against terrorised the U's backline with his speed and confidentially lifted his side-footed shot over Williams and into the back of the net.
Williams could do little to prevent Baldock from scoring
It was a terrific fight back from the Dons which forced Colchester to make changes to their side. They brought on Ashley Vincent and played everything through him, his cross into the box was flicked on by Odejayi to Andy Bond.
Bond was yards out on the left-hand side yet some how blazed his shot into Row&nbsp;Z in a moment he will not want to watch again.
During that time, Chadwick was caught in a collision that left him with blood pouring from his nose, but when he returned to the field he created a third and final goal for the Dons.
An energetic run down the left flank allowed him the opportunity to drill a shot at the effort was parried by the U's goalie but only as far as Baldock who gleefully finished to completed his hat-trick.
Colchester wasted yet another chance at the death when Vincent nodded a cross down and it bounced over, leaving the home side to lick their wounds in a 3-1 defeat.
Colchester United (4-4-2): Williams; Beevers (Wilson 88), Heath, Clarke, White; Henderson (Vincent 70), Perkins, James, Wordsworth (Bond 70); Odejayi, Gillespie.
Subs not used: O'Toole, Izzet, Cousins, Coker.
Booked: White, Clarke
Goal: Gillespie 28
MK Dons (4-2-3-1): Searle; Woodards, MacKenzie (O'Hanlon 61), Kouo-Doumbe, Lewington; Gleeson, Hughes; Powell, Vine (Ibehre 76), Chadwick (Guy 88); S Baldock.
Subs not used: Stirling, Chicksen, Guy, Balanta.
Goals: S Baldock 48, 63, 86
Booked: Gleeson, Powell
Referee: Chris Sarginson (Staffordshire)