A late Jeff Hughes penalty denied MK Dons victory in a bruising encounter against Notts County at Meadow Lane.
The Dons had taken the lead though an acrobatic strike from Tom Flanagan in the first half but had to contend with a fired up County in the second half in which they forced several great saves from Dons goalie David Martin.
But County eventually found a way past Martin in the 81st minute when Jeff Hughes converted from the spot following a dubious hand ball from Flanagan. The game itself was a scrappy hot-headed affair -a mood that was mirrored on the touchline as Martin Allen and John Gorman were sent to the stands for an altercation in the dugouts.
County went into the game looking for their first win in the League since late November, while the Dons were hoping to put pressure on their rivals in the top six, but the result meant the Dons stay in fifth place.
The Dons had been hoping to name an unchanged side after the team had impressed so much at QPR in midweek, despite bowing out of the FA Cup. Yet, boss Karl Robinson's hand was forced when an injury sustained in training meant Shaun Williams was ruled out and Tom Flanagan was drafted into defence.
While many would have seen former Dons boss Martin Allen going head-to-head on the touchline as the battle for the day, the Dons would have felt Flanagan's ability to handle the physical threat of Lee Hughes as the key to the game.
A steady pace greeted the opening of the match as the Dons, in their 4-2-3-1 system, tried to find their feet against Allen's robust 4-5-1 formation.
Mathias Kouo-Doumbe misjudged his range of pass when he played a cross-field ball straight into the path of Jeff Hughes, who in turn spotted the movement of his namesake Lee Hughes and looped the ball through to him. However, Flanagan's presence was enough to disrupt the striker's effort at goal and he failed to truly test David Martin.
Straight down the other end, the Dons had their own chance to open the scoring when some great interplay between Dean Bowditch and Charlie MacDonald pulled the County defence apart, allowing Jabo Ibehre to move into a central position on the edge of the box, but his fierce shot could not be kept on target and went high over the bar.
The early phases suggested an intriguing match-up between the two sides as a packed midfield saw plenty of action which, and chances were falling for either side. First Jeff Hughes found himself with space inside the box to turn and roll a shot in Martin's direction, but with a lack of power behind the ball it was always a simple stop from the Dons goalie.
Whereas Stuart Nelson had more to do with a low driven effort from MacDonald, which he managed to get enough on the ball to divert for a corner.
Just as the game threatened to fall into a lull period Flanagan provided a spark that was needed as he cropped up as an unlikely scorer to break the deadlock. The centreback was alert enough to feed of a mistake by Jeff Hughes as Bowditch's corner was played into the box, he took one touch to set up the ball and showed great technique with an overhead bicycle kick to tuck the ball into the right corner.
It was only the defender's second goal for the Club; his maiden goal came in almost identical fashion in the Dons' 5-1 win at Colchester earlier in the season.
Notts County should have pulled the score level less than five minutes later when Alan Judge flashed a great corner from the left into the Dons' box but Lee Hughes' reaction skills let him down in the six-yard box as he allowed the ball to flash across his path. It was a glorious opportunity for the hosts to equalise.
Less than a minute into the second half the Dons could have doubled their lead when MacDonald, dropping back into a deep position, played the ball to Bowditch who then embarked on a run through midfield at into the box, he ran at Kieron Freeman and turned the fullback inside out before fizzing a low cross in for MacDonald. The striker had done well to keep up with the attack, but when the cross met him it fell awkwardly to him and he could only knock the ball straight at Nelson.
Both goalkeepers were called into action in a busy start to the second half, with Magpies goalie Nelson parrying Dean Lewington's free-kick before Kouo-Doumbe nodded the follow up over the bar.
In response, the Magpies skipper Neal Bishop spotted an avenue through to goal as he looped the ball over the Dons' defence and onto the path of Lee Hughes. The experienced striker took a touch to set it up on the half-volley and it looked destined to be a trademark Hughes goal, but Martin's speedy reactions allowed him to make a fine block.
Attentions then turned to the dugouts when a dispute between County manager Allen and Dons assistant boss John Gorman resulted in referee Stuart Attwell sending the pair to the stands.
With Allen in the stands County went on the onslaught for an equaliser and had the Dons against the ropes at times. It was a string of fine saves from Martin that kept the visitors' lead in tact as the Dons number one first denied Judge with a block at the near post and minutes later Martin, at full stretch, thwarted a curling shot from the same man with a brilliant fingertip save.
The Dons withheld the pressure that County had piled on to them and managed to get a respite by moving the action back into the Magpies' half, yet the chances to add to their lead were kept to a minimum.
A late twist came when Attwell deemed Flanagan to have used his hand to block a shot from Judge and awarded the home side a penalty. Jeff Hughes stepped up and in a confident manner sent Martin the wrong way to pull the scores level.
It was cruel on Martin to concede after a storming individual performance, but in reality County's fighting spirit merited a point.
Notts County: Nelson, Pearce, Bencherif, L Hughes, Bishop (c), J Hughes, Judge, Freeman, Harley (Burgess 53), Mahon (Demontagnac 54), Stewart.
Subs not used: Mitchell, Hawley, Chilvers.
Booked: Bergess, L Hughes
Goal: J Hughes 81 (pen)
MK Dons (4-2-3-1): Martin; Smith, Kouo-Doumbe, Flanagan, Lewington (c); Potter, Gleeson; Bowditch (Powell 66), Ibehre, Chadwick; MacDonald.
Subs not used: McLoughlin, Baldock, O'Shea, McNamee.
Booked: Flanagan, Smith
Goal: Flanagan 27
Referee: Stuart Atwell
Attendance: 6,123 (396 away)