Angelo Balanta stepped off the bench to salvage MK Dons' unbeaten home record in a challenging stadiummk encounter with Colchester United.
Playing in front of a crowd of over 11,000 on the Citizen Family Dons Day, Karl Robinson's men found the first half tough going as the U's muscled their way into the lead through Magnus Okuonghae. But Colombian Balanta, on a season-long loan from Queens Park Rangers, scored with a fabulous solo effort 20 minutes after his half-time introduction to secure a point for the men from MK.
It was a decent result for Robinson's charges, who lacked their usual zest for long periods against a U's side that, by contrast, had a number of chances to strengthen their lead. But having failed to take anything from three good performances at Charlton, Peterborough and Birmingham, a point from a less-than-spectacular display went some way to addressing the balance.
Returning to home pastures after three games on the road, Robinson made just the one alteration from the midweek defeat at Charlton, restoring Jermaine Easter to the attack in place of Jabo Ibehre. But another quickly followed when defender Gary MacKenzie, only just returning from a knee injury, hobbled off 20 minutes in.
Though a ready-made replacement waited on the bench in the shape of Sean O'Hanlon, his recent return from a knock would have made 70 minutes a big ask, so Robinson opted for the young legs of Adam Chicksen
, with Dean Lewington moving to centre-half. Lewis Guy takes on U's full-back Tom Williams. &nbsp; By that point, the hosts had already been up against it, frustrated by Colchester's two deep central midfield players and stretched by the three supporting lone-striker David Mooney.
Quite how Anthony Wordsworth failed to open the scoring nine minutes in was beyond most inside stadiummk - the tall wide-man astonishingly flicking the ball past the post from four yards after being picked out by Ashley Vincent bang in front of goal. Truly one for the end-of-season bloopers, but Colchester, strong, organised and tidy in possession, pressed on - David Mooney glancing a header just past the upright from Tom Williams' excellent 12th-minute cross.
Unable to dominate midfield as they have done of late, the Dons struggled to make an impact high up the pitch, though Dietmar Hamann did go close with a curling effort after exchanging passes with Peter Leven down the left. But the visitors continued to carry the greater first-half threat and they took the lead 25 minutes, annoyingly for the Dons, from a set-piece. Okuonghae had never scored in over 50 league appearances for Colchester until last month, but the former Dagenham defender quickly made it two in three games - pulling down Wordsworth's left-wing corner and drilling through the crowd from 13 yards.
Luke Chadwick did his best to lift the home side and their supporters with a brace of bone-shuddering challenges that left both Kemal Izzet and David Perkins writhing in agony shortly afterwards. And Hamann almost struck an even bigger blow eight minutes before the break when his crisply struck free-kick was well held by Mark Cousins.
It still wasn't quite happening for them though and when Mathias Kouo-Doumbé inadvertently flicked a long clearance in behind Danny Woodards, Wordsworth's cross-shot was agonisingly out of Vincent's reach at the far post. It had been Colchester's half, the Dons lacking dynamism in midfield, but Robinson acted swiftly to introduce the energy of 20-year-old Balanta at the break and his side improved.
They were almost level two minutes after the restart, Andy Bond blocking desperately on the line to deny Woodards from a Balanta corner. But Colchester were close to extending the lead from the very next attack - Vincent clipping the top of the crossbar with a fiercely-struck shot from range.
And so the game opened up to the Dons' advantage, Lewington climbing to head a Leven free-kick marginally wide and Jabo Ibehre, brought on in place of Lewis Guy, drilling just wide on the turn after holding off Okuonghae and Paul Reid. It was the hosts' best spell by a distance and Balanta finally hauled them level with the game's outstanding contribution on 66 minutes.
Turning superbly away from Izzet inside his own half, the Colombian began a typical raid from the left flank, forcing full-back John White into a scrambling defensive retreat. Happy to move onto either foot, Balanta seized on the opening offered him inside, shifting to his right 25 yards from goal before curling precisely inside the foot of the far post. Relief swept around the 11,280 in attendance and Robinson's punch of the air came with a welcome puff of the cheeks.
It looked anybody's game from there as Colchester quickly looked to re-establish their advantage - Vincent only denied by Kouo-Doumbé's goal-line intervention after pulling down a cross from the left and Ibehre only halted by Mick Russell's whistle when Reid was generously awarded a free-kick after slipping under pressure from the Dons substitute.
Colchester's own replacements threatened to kick the Dons in the teeth when both Kayode Odejayi and Liam Henderson went within inches of snatching a winner in the final ten minutes. But neither side will be too despondent with the point, as the Dons' unbeaten home run stretched to eight&nbsp;games.
MK Dons (4-4-2): Martin; Woodards, MacKenzie (Chicksen 21), Kouo-Doumbé, Lewington (c); Guy (Ibehre 56), Hamann (Balanta 46), Leven, Chadwick; Easter, Wilbraham.
Subs not used: O'Hanlon, Carrington, Searle, G. Baldock.
Goals: Balanta 66
Booked: Kouo-Doumbé, Chicksen
Colchester United (4-2-3-1): Cousins; White, Okuonghae, Reid, Williams; Izzet, Perkins; Vincent (I. Henderson 85), Bond, Wordsworth (L. Henderson 88); Mooney (Odejayi 73).
Subs not used: B. Williams, Gillespie, James, L. Henderson, Heath.
Goals: Okuonghae 25
Referee: Mick Russell (Hertfordshire)