Substitute Lewis Guy scored a late winner to break the resistance of dogged Hartlepool, as MK Dons recorded a fourth straight win at stadiummk.
Karl Robinson's side looked set to be frustrated by the side from the North East, dominating possession for prolonged periods in front of the Sky cameras but unable to engineer a breakthrough. That was until Guy's introduction, the former Doncaster man expertly turning in Sam Baldock's cross 13 minutes from time to secure all three points and a fifth win in six games for the Dons this term.
Despite having to see out the final few minutes without skipper Dean Lewington, who was sent off for a professional foul on 'Pools substitute Leon McSweeney, the Dons held on for a win that lifts them to third in the League 1 table. While sides playing later in the day may yet overtake them Robinson's team can comfort themselves in the knowledge that, with a game in hand, they are certainly among the division's early pace-setters.
And for the increasingly impressive Guy, a bundle of attacking energy from the moment he stepped foot on the pitch, this was another clear indication that he is ready to be a regular Dons matchwinner in what looks like becoming a hugely exciting season. Guy sidefoots the winner from Sam Baldock's cross. &nbsp; Though the Dons controlled the pace of the first half, working the ball neatly in midfield, they lacked the cutting edge that would give them the opening they craved.
Peter Leven and Dietmar Hamann interchanged creatively, aided by the wandering influence of Luke Chadwick, while Angelo Balanta's quality on the ball was a regular source of pressure. Chadwick it was that engineered the first opening, threading a tight pass between Gary Liddle and Evan Horwood to give Jermaine Easter space in the penalty area, but Scott Flinders was sharply out of his goal to save at the Welshman's feet.
Balanta then had Flinders scrambling across his&nbsp;ground with a low drive from 20 yards, but the sparkle was limited by Hartlepool's impressively-organised defence. Openings for the visitors were fleeting at best - Ritchie Humphreys driving fiercely past David Martin's left-hand post after Sam Collins' long throw had been cleared. They did have the ball in the net on the half-hour when another Collins' throw caused a bit of chaos in the Dons box, but Andy Monkhouse's cutback, which deflected in off Sean O'Hanlon, was from behind the dead-ball line.
The Dons finished the first half the stronger as Balanta curled into Flinders' midriff following an excellent burst from Danny Woodards down the right, but the full-back was forced off just before half-time through injury.
Mark Carrington was a more-than-able replacement, but the impact on the side's balance was obvious - Woodards' pace as a right-wing outlet lost and Hartlepool less likely to become stretched as a result. The hosts' domination merely increased after the break, but Hartlepool's determination to frustrate was proving difficult to overcome - Baldock's flicked header from Carrington's cross on 55 minutes the only semi-meaningful sight of goal. The discomfort in the crowd was noticeable, but the Dons kept to their passing philosophy and slowly wore their tormentors down.
Robinson played his part, moving the outstanding Chadwick to central midfield to accommodate Guy's introduction on the right, and within five minutes the two combined with Baldock to force the breakthrough. Hartlepool shouldn't have been in danger, having won possession halfway inside their own half through the industrious Antony Sweeney, but Chadwick robbed him to set Baldock away down the inside left channel.
Hartlepool were horribly exposed, Baldock played onside by Evan Horwood's terrible defensive position, and Baldock screwed back for Guy to side foot precisely past Flinders. The goal the crowd had craved for so long, but it would not be plain sailing from there as the hosts were reduced to ten men six minutes from time. Horwood's long ball forward was flicked on by Fabian Yantorno and McSweeney looked the favourite to race onto it until Lewington stepped across his path.
The Dons skipper could have few arguments, though Martin was a contender in the race to reach the ball first, and the predictable late siege began. The best of the subsequent chances had a hint of controversy about it, Sean O'Hanlon dangerously close to conceding a penalty as Sweeney tried to get on the end of Denis Behan's knockdown. And Sweeney, whose carelessness in possession had led to Guy's winner, saw another headed chance fly wide late-on.
But the Dons would hold on for a hard-earned win and, albeit temporarily, third place in the table.
MK Dons (4-4-2): Martin; Woodards, O'Hanlon, Kouo-Doumbé, Lewington (c); Chadwick, Hamann (Guy 72), Leven, Balanta; Baldock, Easter (Ibehre 72).
Subs not used: Searle, Chicksen, Powell, Johnson.
Goals: Guy 77
Sent off: Lewington 84
Hartlepool United (4-4-2): Flinders; Haslam, Collins (c), Liddle, Horwood; Sweeney, Murray, Humphreys (McSweeney 81), Monkhouse; Boyd (Behan 62), Yantorno (Larkin 87).
Subs not used: Austin, McSweeney, Mackay, Larkin, Hartley, Mooney. Booked: Monkhouse, Humphreys
Attendance: 7,666 (204 away)
Referee: Craig Pawson (Sheffield)