Jabo Ibehre's 90th minute goal helped MK Dons come from behind to record a 2-2 draw with Hartlepool United on the opening day of the npower League 1 season.
The visitors took the lead on two occasions through Andy Boyd and James Poole, but Dons found responses from Luke Chadwick and substitute Ibehre. Despite finding a last minute equaliser the Dons were left feeling hard done by due to a late penalty being refused by referee Andy D'Urso.
Deep in injury time a trip by Peter Hartley on Stephen Gleeson looked to all in the stands at stadiummk as the Dons' chance to win the game, but Mr D'Urso's decision not to award a penalty enraged the home supporters.
Ultimately though, the Dons had the opportunities throughout the 90 minutes out right claim three points, yet goals against the run of play for Pools and the Dons' failure to take all the chances they created in front of goal cost them victory on the first game of the season.
Karl Robinson handed full debuts to his summer signings Darren Potter and Shaun Williams, who in the absence of Mathias Kouo-Doumbe filled in at centreback alongside Gary MacKenzie.
The Dons, still looking to add to the squad before the transfer window closes, tried a number of formations during pre-season however, when kick-off came they lined up in their familiar 4-3-2-1 system.
The fluid set-up served them so well in the latter part of last season and the signs in the opening stages suggested it would once again prove successful at stadiummk.
Little more than four minutes had been played when the Hartlepool defence misread a ball over the top which allowed Daniel Powell the space to move inside the box but his close-range shot called on a good block at the near post from goalie Scott Flinders.
Hartlepool's Evan Horwood looked set to be in for a difficult afternoon as he found marking Powell a difficult task and it was the Dons' wide man who again had another good chance. Stephen Gleeson combined with Luke Chadwick and Powell was found hovering on the edge of the box, he had the time to consider his chances and when his shot was fired the deflection ensured the crossbar started shaking.
Threat then came from the opposite flank for the Dons when Balanta, having returned to the Club on loan from QPR at the start of the week, showed hints of why he had been so successful in Milton Keynes during the previous 12 months as he cut inside only for his shot to hit the shoulder of a Pools player which saw the ball land on the roof of the net.
It had one-way traffic from the home side, a cheeky back heel on the touchline from Adam Chicksen paved way for Chadwick to test Flinders with a tame shot, but out of the blue and against the run of play it was Hartlepool who took the lead in the 20th minute.
The tricky Andy Monkhouse got the better of Chicksen and was able to cut the ball back from the byline to the feet of Horwood. The Pools full-back played an inch perfect cross into the six-yard box where Boyd leapt high to head into the top corner to give the visitors a shock lead.
Despite falling behind, and possibly feeling the score failed to reflect their dominance, the Dons continued to press and control the play. Sam Baldock had a fantastic volley-on-the-turn from the edge of the box, and when Lewington tried to connect with a cross from the left his collision with Flinders allowed MacKenzie and Baldock attempts at stabbing home, yet to no avail.
Eventually Chadwick was able to wander through the Pools defence had a wonderful chipped shot brilliantly tipped over by Flinders, who was by far the busier of the two goalkeepers.
Immediately after the break the Dons were presented another chance to get back on level terms when Chadwick pushed through to the byline and his cross fell to Gleeson but the midfielder could only send his shot wide.
The goal that the Dons' effort and play had so richly deserved eventually came when Gleeson, again pulling the strings from midfield, found Baldock on the edge of the box. The striker held the ball up before feeding through to Chadwick, and the midfielder took on two defenders allowing him the space to curl a fantastic effort beyond the Pools keeper.
Chances to take the lead quickly followed when Balanta's sizzling shot flew just over the bar and a missed diving header in the Hartlepool defence offered a sniff at goal to Baldock but he saw his piledriver well stopped by Flinders.
With the time still available to find a winner Robinson introduced Dean Bowditch into proceedings to give the Dons extra threat up front.
Bowditch came close within minutes when a short corner from Balanta found him via Gleeson, but the former Yeovil Town striker, after measuring his options, couldn't prevent his shot from rising over.
Just as the Dons were beginning to think victory might come their way a break in concentration cost them as Poole, on the pitch for a matter of moments, showed the pace in his fresh legs as he ran straight through the middle of the Dons, even MacKenzie could get a foot to the ball, and stroked in Pools' second of the game.
However, the Dons refused to be beaten on the opening day as substitute Jay O'Shea delivered a fizzing cross into the six-yard box and Ibehre, also on as a late sub, found himself in the right place at the right time to turn in the equaliser.
The drama was still to come through as Gleeson went down in the penalty box following a trip by Hartley, but as Mr D'Urso waved away the appeals and with it the Dons had to settle for a point.
MK Dons (4-2-3-1): Martin; Chicksen (O'Shea 87), MacKenzie, Williams, Lewington (c); Gleeson, Potter; Powell (Bowditch 68), Chadwick (Ibehre 75), Balanta; S Baldock.
Subs unused: McLoughlin, Flanagan.
Booked: Balanta, Gleeson
Goals: Chadwick 53, Ibehre 90
Hartlepool United (4-4-2): Flinders; Austin, Collins (c), Hartley, Horwood; Solano (Luscombe 59), Sweeney, Liddle, Monkhouse; Nish (Poole 82), Boyd (Murray 62).
Subs unused: Humphreys, Rafferty.
Goals: Boyd 20, Poole 85
Referee: Andy D'Urso (Essex)
Attendance: 7,287 (479 away)