Two Johnnie Jackson penalties condemned MK Dons to a 2-1 defeat by Charlton Athletic as Karl Robinson's Dons paid a heavy price for the dismissal of Gary MacKenzie.
MacKenzie saw red in the 41st minute, when the Dons were more than holding their own in a goalless encounter, for a clash with Yann Kermorgant in an incident that took place off-the-ball.
Jackson took responsibility for the penalty which was rewarded as a result to fire the Addicks ahead and a minute later he doubled the lead from the spot following a foul by Alan Smith.
A spirited Dons display followed in the second half, rather than hope not to concede further they pushed and pushed with Smith and Stephen Gleeson tested the goalkeeper before Dean Bowditch pulled a goal back three minutes from time.
The desire, heart and commitment shown by Karl Robinson's side will have been a huge encouragement following the huge blow of the first half events, but that will have offered little comfort as they were left empty handed.
The recent cold snap had kept both sides out of action with Charlton playing their first game in two weeks and the Dons out of action for ten days, yet the tempo that greeted the game showed no signs of rustiness as both sides got stuck into the action.
There was plenty of positive play from both sides in the early phases as the ball was sprayed around in a fast and pleasing-to-the-eye manner, but there was little in the form of clear cut chances inside the opening ten minutes.
That was until the steely determination of Smith assisted the Dons as he battled hard to keep possession on the right of midfield before sending a lofted pass to James Tavernier, who in turn found Charlie MacDonald. The striker, who celebrated his 31st birthday a day earlier, looked sharp on the ball as he riffled a low shot at 'keeper Ben Hamer.
Charlton's most lively play came down their right flank with Danny Green pushing high up the pitch to keep Dean Lewington on his toes while Bradley Wright-Phillips often floated out to the wider area to cause some problems to the Dons' backline.
One of the Dons' strengths was their quick pressing of Charlton, the instructions from boss Robinson must have been not to allow the home side the time on the ball that they enjoyed as Dons bodies appeared around them when they did.
There was certainly a determined feeling in both camps not to drop points as the impressive work-rate was matched by equally tough tackling. The ever-familiar strong challenge of Smith did not register on a welcoming note for the Addicks fans, but delighted the travelling Dons support.
Yet, when Gary MacKenzie looked a little too keen to get the ball in an aerial challenge with Yann Kermorgant he was cautioned by referee Keith Stroud.
The Addicks then began to ask questions of the Dons when Wright-Phillips picked up the ball 20-yards out and, under the challenge of MacKenzie, was able to send a lobbed effort goal bound. Martin was backtracking and, with his feet behind the line, managed to collect the ball to keep the scores level, however, the cries from the home support said they felt the ball too had crossed the line.
The appeals though, never came from the Charlton players and play was waved on by the officials.
A foul by Shaun Williams allowed Johnnie Jackson a chance at goal, something assistant manager John Gorman had warned of in the build up to the game, from a dead ball situation. Luckily for the visitors Jackson's centrally positioned free-kick fell wide of the post.
At the other end, the Dons were left to question how they had failed to open the scoring in the 35th minute when Dean Bowditch was able to get a fine cross in from the left byline and in a scrambled effort Smith saw his point-blank shot from inside six-yards well saved by Hamer, before MacDonald blazed over the parried ball.
It had been a solid half for the Dons and one they could be happy with, however, that all changed when four minutes before the break as an incident off-the-ball between MacKenzie and Kertmorgant caught the attention of the referee.
MacKenzie was shown a straight red for an alleged headbutt and the Dons were punished further when a penalty was awarded. Addicks' skipper Jackson stepped up and duly converted into the bottom right corner to beat Martin despite him correctly diving in the same direction.
It went from bad to worse for Robinson's men when a stunning 40-yard strike from Chris Solly hit the underside of the bar, and as the Dons did their best to clear the danger Smith was penalised for a trip on Jackson.
Once again, Jackson took the ball and this time sent his spot-kick into the opposite corner to give Charlton a 2-0 lead at half-time.
It was a huge ask for the Dons, with a numerical disadvantage, to come from two goals down against the division's leading team. A re-shuffle was forced on to them due to MacKenzie's absence meaning Mathias Kouo-Doumbe was introduced after the break to restore the backline, with MacDonald surrendering his place.
The Dons called on Smith to lead the attack on his own with the support of his team mates, and they did just that with Lewington sending a glancing header wide from Bowditch's corner before Smoth had a tame shot saved by Hamer.
The commitment of the Dons could not be faulted as they piled forward at every given opportunity with Smith in particular showing his experience and hunger for the game.
With the man advantage Charlton always had the ability to hurt the Dons when on the attack, and when Bowditch was robbed of the ball Wright-Phillips had a golden opportunity to extend the Addicks' lead when he was found unmarked in the box, but the moment got the better of him as he skied his shot into Row Z.
It was fair to say the Dons had enjoyed an excellent share of possession in the second half and deserved to at least register on the score sheet, which is exactly what Glesson tried to do as the minutes ticked by when he saw an superbly stuck effort from the edge of the box tipped over by Hamer.
The Dons did get a reward for their efforts when, with three minutes remaining, Bowditch ran at the Addicks defence in a fearless approach as he picked up the ball from Jay O'Shea and found his way down the left of the box before applying a fine finish into the net.
Unfortunately for the Dons their battle was against the clock and their battling display went unrewarded when the final whistle was heard.
Charlton Athletic: Hamer, Jackson (c) (Haynes 66), Morrison, Taylor, Green, Stephens, Wright-Phillips (Pritchard 90), Wiggins, Solly, Hollands, Kermorgant.
Subs not used: Sullivan, Cort, Clarke.
Goals: Jackson 44 (pen), 45 (pen)
MK Dons (4-2-3-1): Martin; Tavernier, MacKenzie, Williams, Lewington (c); Potter, Gleeson; Bowditch, Smith (O'Shea 83), Chadwick (Powell 76); MacDonald (Kouo-Doumbe 45).
Subs not used: McLoughlin, Ibehre.
Sent-off: MacKenzie 42
Goal: Bowditch 87
Referee: Keith Stroud (Hampshire)
Attendance: 15,569 (347 away)