MK Dons maintained their unbeaten start to the season at home, despite not managing to overcome away-day specialists Rochdale at stadiummk.
Karl Robinson's side were forced to come from behind against their tireless visitors, who took the lead on 20 minutes when Jason Kennedy capitalised on an Angelo Balanta mistake to score. But Frenchman Mathias Kouo-Doumbé's first goal of the season levelled matters halfway through the first period, as he dived to head home a Peter Leven corner.
It could, and possibly should, have been a Club record-equalling sixth consecutive win for the men from MK after a second half that saw them carve out most of the notable chances. And Welshman Jermaine Easter will feel particularly disappointed, having passed up a wonderful headed opportunity a minute from time. But fortress stadiummk remains intact this season, with Robinson's side now fourth in the League 1 table ahead of their trip to second-placed Peterborough next Saturday.
Balanta, back in the side after his goal against Southampton in midweek, had them on the attack from the very first minute against the Dale, slicing a gaping hole through the heart of the Rochdale defence, and only the ball getting caught under Jabo Ibehre's feet prevented Josh Lillis being called into action. Ibehre's power and ability to retain is always likely to cause problems, but in Chris O'Grady Rochdale have a striker cut from the same cloth.
Leading the line on his own admirably, his first telling contribution was to draw a solid save from Martin after collecting Brian Barry-Murphy's ball into the channel. It was a first half more about energy and endeavour that free-flowing football, but very watchable nonetheless as both sides set about attacking with gusto. The breakthrough came on twenty minutes, with a sizeable element of fortune involved.
Gary Jones chipped a hopeful ball into the Dons box, Balanta's header was dangerously miscued and Kennedy pounced to slot past the exposed David Martin. A goal stadiummk had been dreading, against typically difficult opponents in excellent away form, but it served to rally the home side and they levelled eight minutes later. Leven, whose set-piece delivery caused problems all afternoon, swung over a dipping corner from the left, Kouo-Doumbé shook off his marker and flung himself at the ball and Joe Widdowson's best efforts were futile on the goal-line.
It put the hosts on top and despite O'Grady deserving better after rolling Danny Woodards and cutting back brilliantly from the left, his side were struggling to hold onto the ball. Lewis Guy forced a smart save from a tight angle after being found by Easter, and Easter himself had the ball in the net after controlling and dispatching a Woodards cross, only to see it disallowed for handball. The second period began much like the first - both sides exchanging token efforts from O'Grady and Easter, before the Dons started to exert some control around the hour-mark.
Balanta, again, was at the heart of much of it, drilling a ball across goal on 59 minutes that Easter couldn't quite turn home and then sliding in behind for Guy to race onto, with Lillis just intervening before the winger could convert. It looked like an ominous spell from the hosts as Rochdale retreated further and further into their own half - Guy ruffling the side netting on 62 minutes after allowed Luke Chadwick's pass to run cleverly across him.
But the visitors were not about to cave in as they slowly ate into the Dons' territorial advantage, re-establishing a footing thanks in no small part to the efforts of the tireless O'Grady. Dale skipper Gary Jones, quiet up to this point, forced Martin to tip his 22-yarder over the bar, but the bigger threat was still coming from the hosts. Craig Dawson's magnificent sliding challenge prevented Ibehre escaping onto substitute Aaron Wilbraham's pass 13 minutes from time.
But the golden chance to win it would fall to Easter, who looked certain to secure the points when he rose to meet Balanta's teasing cross from the right, but placed his header the wrong side of the post.
MK Dons (4-4-2): Martin; Woodards, O'Hanlon, Kouo-Doumbé, Lewington (c); Guy (Wilbraham 76), Chadwick, Leven, Balanta; Ibehre, Easter.
Subs not used: Mackenzie, Carrington, Hamann, Searle, Howell, Chicksen.
Goals: Kouo-Doumbé 28
Booked: Lewington, Chadwick Rochdale (4-5-1): Lillis; Josh Thompson, Dawson, Holness, Widdowson (Goodall 52); Tutte (Akpa-Akpro 80), Kennedy, Barry-Murphy, Jones (c), Elding (Joe Thompson 66); O'Grady.
Subs not used: Jones, Done, Flynn, Gray, Goodall.
Goals: Kennedy 20 Booked: Widdowson, Josh Thompson
Attendance: 7,034 (462 away)
Referee: Keith Hill (Hertfordshire)