MK Dons' wait for a play-off berth goes into the final two games of the season after suffering a 1-0 defeat to Plymouth Argyle, who breathed life into their faint hopes of League 1 survival.
Simon Walton's 17th minute free-kick proved the difference between the two sides who were battling for points to help their fate at opposite ends of the table. The Dons could have confirmed a place in the play-offs with victory, but a day of a host of half-chances but few clear cut proved their downfall.
Daniel Powell had the best chance of the first half for the Dons, and Keanu Marsh-Brown forced two late saves from David Button, however they could not force an equaliser and Leyton Orient's victory at Carlisle cut Karl Robinson's side's cushion in the play-offs to four points with six to play for.
Argyle, looking for their third win in four games to boost their hopes of survival, have has a slice of luck as Daniel Powell and Angelo Balanta both had effort to claw the score level cleared.
The Dons now have 45 minutes to overturn the scoreline if they are to confirm their place in the League 1 play-offs on their own merit, otherwise results elsewhere could cement their spot in the top six.
The Dons quickly imposed themselves on the game with Jabo Ibehre providing a physical presence up front to give the visitors a handy target up front, although Plymouth slowly found their rhythm with Yala Bolasie heading Simon Walton's corner wide in a low key opening quarter of an hour.
Jabo Ibehre breaks into the box but can't find a way past David Button
Plymouth, desperately looking to keep hold of their League 1 status, showed fighting spirit in abundance and a break from Bolasie had a hint of danger about it until Sean O'Hanlon was penalised for a foul on the forward.
Walton stepped the free-kick, from 20-yards out to the left of the Dons' box, and curled a terrific strike over the crowded penalty area, possibly picking up the slightest of touches from Rory Fallon, and into the top corner.
The Home Park crowd let out a roar of relief rather than celebration, while the Dons re-gathered and they could have levelled the scores five minutes later.
Daniel Powell found space to manoeuvre into the Pilgrims' box as he used all his strength to ride two challenges, but after all his hard work he fired a shot straight a goalkeeper David Button. The opportunity was not thwarted there though, as Angelo Balanta ran on to the parried ball only for Karl Duguid to block at the post.
Duguid's block fell kindly to Peter Leven, stood outside the area, but the Dons midfielder could not prevent his effort from rising over.
Robinson's men continued to knock on the door as they began to let their slick attacking style o the talking with Luke Chadwick driving forward from deep in his own half to bring Stephen Gleeson into action on the edge of the box.
Luke Chadwick battles for the ball in midfield
The Republic of Ireland Under-21 international played a wonderful flick on for Powell, but the youngster took one too many touches and the ball was cleared before he could bring Button in to action.
The Dons were playing the more attractive football, as Plymouth stuck with their plan to knock the ball forward to Fallon who was proving to be a handful, yet little was created to cause David Martin any problems.
The visitors kept up the pressure after the half-time interval, again going close to breaching the Pilgrims' defence only for Ibehre to nod a well timed cross from Dean Lewington over the bar.
As life in front of goal became ever more frustrating the Dons introduced Baldock in place of Balanta with the hope that a finish would be applied to the half-chances created.
At the other end Plymouth could well have found a second when Bolasie got the better of Lewington to square the ball inside the area for Karl Arnason, but a heavy touch from the attacking midfielder allowed O'Hanlon to sweep up.
Plymouth did not sit back on their lead, instead they pressed forward looking to add to their lead and they almost did just that when Arnason, who began to dictate the play, was threaded through by Balasie to fire a great effort from 18-yards only for the fingertips of Martin to push clear.
Daniel Powell rides a challenge as the Dons endure a frustrating afternoon at Home Park
Arnason again proved a thorn in the Dons' side when he fed the ball through to the speedy Bolasie, but the striker was denied as Martin made a superb block with his legs.
The Dons knocked on the door with Gleeson's curling shot picking up a deflection, a vital touch as it steered the ball inches wide. They pilled on the pressure in the closing stages with Gary MacKenzie nodding Leven's cross to the feet of Marsh-Brown, and the Fulham loanee forced a great reaction save from Button with a powerful right-footed effort.
Moments later Marsh-Brown stung the palms of Button again with a similar effort, this time from outside the area, but the Pilgrims goalie could not be beaten.
To add to the drama Bolasie rattled a thunderous strike against the bar in the fourth minute of injury-time, but Plymouth's victory was confirmed seconds later when the referee blew for full-time.
Plymouth Argyle (4-2-3-1): Button; Duguid, Nelson, Zubar, Paterson; Walton (Peterlin 58), Fletcher; Mason (Summerfield 51), Arnason, Fallon; Bolasie.
Subs not used: Larrieu, Harper-Penman, Peterlin, Timar, Young.
Goal: Walton 17
MK Dons (4-2-3-1): Martin; Kouo-Doumbe, O'Hanlon (Clayton 80), MacKenzie, Lewington (c) (Marsh-Brown 69); Gleeson, Leven; Powell, Chadwick, Balanta (S Baldock 60); Ibehre.
Subs: Searle, Guy, Woodards, Clayton, Marsh-Brown, Chicksen
Referee: Steve Tanner
Attendance: 8,553 (262 away)