MK Dons' League 1 season came to a heartbreaking end with a 2-0 defeat by Peterborough United sending them crashing out of the play-off semi-finals on a 4-3 aggregate score line.
Peterborough trailed 3-2 from the first leg but goals from Grant McCann and Craig Mackail-Smith were enough to turn the tie on its head and deny the Dons a place in the final against Huddersfield Town and a chance of Championship football.
The Dons, who finished fifth in the regular season and just two points behind Posh, were unable to add to the three goals they had scored in an impressive first leg and were left to count the cost.
The controversial penalty scored by McCann in the first leg might have proved the difference over the two games, however, the Dons will also be cursing their luck having been unable to put the tie beyond doubt in Milton Keynes. Ultimately, when the Dons look back on the season it will register as an impressive first year under the guidance of rookie boss Karl Robinson.
Daniel Powell and Lee Tomlin tussle for the ball
Robinson kept his faith in the starting eleven that had dominated the first leg and given the Dons a goal advantage heading into the tie at London Road.
Peterborough were looking to get an equaliser at the earliest opportunity and the first real chance came in the sixth minute when Tommy Rowe picked out Mackail-Smith just inside the box, but the Posh front man could not find a way past David Martin at the near post.
But the Dons goalkeeper should have done better five minutes later when Peterborough next applied pressure as Grant McCann's free-kick from the right flank found its way through the wall and squirmed beyond Martin to level the tie.
The Dons had not been allowed to settle in the opening phases, but the goal did enough to stir them into action and it was not long until they registered their own effort on target as Paul Jones, who came on at half-time in the first leg for Joe Lewis, punched clear a low shot from Angelo Balanta.
The visitors found the nerve to commit men forward in an attempt to get their noses back in front and continued pressure from a succession of corners saw Gary MacKenzie go within inches as his glancing header fell just wide.
Striker Sam Baldock endured a frustrating evening
A tense atmosphere at London Road soaked into the game itself as the two sides renowned for their slick attacking style allowed mistakes to creep in and resulted in a scrappy midfield battle.
At times the Dons' lack of caution proved a down fall with Peterborough quick to exploit errors. When Daniel Powell lost the ball to George Boyd it presented Posh with a lightning break away which saw Mackail-Smith and Tomlin spray the ball around the Dons' box before Grant Basey fizzed in a delicious cross.
As Dons bodies tried to recover both Mackail-Smith and James Wesolowski raced to tap home, but in the goalmouth scramble neither could apply the finishing touch.
Although Peterborough turned up the heat on the Dons, Robinson's men had a golden chance when a free-kick on the halfway line fell in their favour. A rash challenge by Mackail-Smith on Dean Lewington allowed Stephen Gleeson to deliver a dangerous ball into the box.
MacKenzie and Luke Chadwick combined before MacKenzie nodded the ball into the centre of the box for Sam Baldock. The striker tried to turn and shoot, but the ball fell for Powell who rifled a close range strike against the underside of the bar.
Posh were quick to remind the visitors of their constant threat when a tame looking McCann drive from distance was flicked on by Boyd to force a terrific reaction save from Martin.
Adam Clayton and Tommy Rowe battle for possession
With Posh leading, and the aggregate score level, at half-time the tie was finely poised but the showed movement across the pitch to encourage the travelling support.
Baldock held the ball up well to give Chadwick the opportunity to press on from midfield and invite Balanta into the play on the left, but the Columbian-born winger lacked the power needed to trouble Jones.
And the Dons were punished for not taking their chances when a hopeful shot from Gleeson was blocked and subsequently Peterborough found Boyd in the Dons' box
MacKenzie and Sean O'Hanlon failed to clear as Boyd forced a great stop from Martin, however, Mackail-Smith followed up and at the second time of asking, after Chadwick had blocked, the lively striker struck to edge Posh 4-3 ahead in the semi-final.
But the Dons were well within their rights to feel aggrieved as they were denied a penalty when Little handed the ball as Balanta looked to have the full-back beaten inside the box.
On the hour mark Tomlin thought he had extended Peterborough's lead as he finished into the bottom corner, but his celebrations were cut short as referee Colin Webster had blown moments earlier for a foul on Boyd.
Grant McCann dictated the game from his central midfield position
From the resulting McCann free-kick the Dons set on the counterattack, with Baldock showing his fine turn of pace, and only a tackle timed to perfection by Wesolowski denied Balanta from pulling the trigger.
There was a confident swagger about the Peterborough players whereas the Dons began to look shaky under the pressure, and Posh had another chance to add to the score line when Chris Whelpdale's cut back, intended for Mackail-Smith, was fired in by Tommy Rowe but MacKenzie got the touch needed to deflect away for a corner.
There was a heart-stopping moment for the Dons six minutes from time when a header from Lewington, trying to get to the ball before Boyd, called upon a tip over the bar from Martin.
As the clock ticked down the Dons had to take their chances but when they needed their clinical touch it let them down. Substitute Lewis Guy went on a run through midfield to bring Marsh-Brown into the action, and the winger opted to drill a shot which bobbled up awkwardly for Balanta who could only blaze over.
Mackail-Smith should have put Posh's place in the final beyond doubt when a poor pass by Lewington put MacKenzie under pressure yet some how the Peterborough front man rattled the post.
But Peterborough did not need another goal as the sound of the final whistle was enough to confirm their place in the final at Old Trafford, leaving a shattered Dons side in pieces.
Peterborough United (4-4-2): Jones, Little, Zakuani, Wesolowski, Boyd, McCann (c) (Whelpdale 69), Mackail-Smith, Rowe, Bennett, Tomlin, Basey.
Subs: Richardson, Langmead, Ball, Whelpdale, Mendez-Laing, Davies, Newell.
Goals: McCann 11, Mackail-Smith 54
MK Dons (4-2-3-1): Martin; Kouo-Doumbe, O'Hanlon (Guy 85), MacKenzie, Lewington (c); Gleeson, Clayton; Powell (Marsh-Brown 65), Chadwick (Ibehre 65), Balanta; S Baldock.
Subs: Searle, Guy, Woodards, Baldock, Ibehre, Marsh-Brown, Chicksen.
Booked: Chadwick, Gleeson, Lewington, Marsh-Brown
Referee: Colin Webster (Tyne and Wear)
Attendance: 1,1920 (2005 away)