Jay O'Shea bagged his fourth goal of the season to help a depleted MK Dons side take a point in a 1-1 draw away at Hartlepool United.
The Dons had to battle for the point as they were forced to come from a goal down after James Poole's first half header fired the Pools ahead against the run of play.
O'Shea found the equaliser with a header of his own in the 51st minute when he was able to finish a fine free-kick from Shaun Williams.
The Dons - who had Luke Chadwick hit the post in each half - threw on 16-year-old George Williams for his League debut and Paul Slane for his first Dons appearance late in the game in hope of sealing a win but had to settle for a share of the points instead.
The result keeps the Dons in fifth place in the League 1 table on a day when everyone else in the play-offs slipped up.
The Dons went into the game on the back of three successive victories but travelled to the North East without injured Charlie MacDonald, Darren Potter (illness) as well as suspended duo Gary MacKenzie and Stephen Gleeson.
There woes were made worse when top goal scorer Dean Bowditch was unable to come through a late fitness test on the morning of the game, leaving the Dons with only four substitutes on the bench.
Pools, having beaten Bury in midweek to bounce back from their 5-0 defeat to Wycombe Wanderers last weekend, started brightly in their fluid 4-3-3 system and their first chance to cause a panic in the Dons' box came in the fifth minute when Ritchie Humphreys whipped a wicked free-kick from the right which evaded everyone and skimmed past the post.
At the other end, some scrappy play almost invited the Dons in when Jabo Ibehre, leading the line, latched on to a ball over the top only to be closed down quickly by the Pools backline. A lively Jay O'Shea rescued Ibehre and played a one-two with Luke Chadwick before seeing his shot blocked. It was a promising move by the Dons yet Scott Flinders was never called into action.
There were plenty of mistakes on the pitch with heavy touches and poor passing coming from both teams but it was a sloppy pass from Humphreys that almost played Pools into trouble.
The experienced Hartlepool midfielder stroked the ball into the path of a grateful Chadwick who was able to drive through the heart of the home side's defence.
Ibehre provided support to the right of Chadwick but the midfielder opted to drill a deflected shot - which had Flinders flat-footed - against the left upright and unfortunately for the Dons no one was able to follow up the rebound.
Hartlepool struggled to keep possession under pressure from a relentless Dons midfield and the Pools backline looked particularly shaky as they tried to keep Daniel Powell and Ibehre quiet.
Despite playing in a deep position in midfield Alan Smith was keen to press on up the pitch in search of a goal and with Shaun Williams pulling the strings the Newcastle United loanee was able to find the time and space to advance.
A delicious lofted pass over the Pools defence presented Smith was a chance in the box, but a heavy attempt to control the ball with his heel saw the ball fall away along with the opportunity.
The play had been bossed by the Dons, but they were caught cold on the counter-attack when Paul Murray's diagonal cross was nodded back across the goalmouth by Andy Monkhouse where Poole was able to head home.
With a spring in their step the home side almost doubled their lead a moment later when a short free-kick was played into the path of Humphreys, a gap opened up in front of him and only a fine parry from Martin denied Pools a second.
The Dons had every right to feel hard done by to trail as they had dominated and continued to on the resumption of the second half. The equaliser the Dons deserved came six minutes after the interval when a superb free-kick from the boot of Shaun Williams found an unmarked O'Shea at the far post and the Irishman was able to head the ball beyond the reach of Flinders.
Five minutes later Shaun Williams had another free-kick from a similar area at the right of the Pools penalty box and on this occasion he opted for a stinging shot straight into the 'keeper's palms.
The Dons almost edged in front when the Hartlepool defence went missing and Chadwick was once again allowed to drive through to the edge of the box, yet for a second time in the match he was denied a goal by the post.
Chadwick had been at the heart of all of the Dons' attacks and took a well-earned rest in the 70th minute when George Williams took to the field in his place to earn his League debut aged just 16.
On the ground where Powell earned the tag of Dons' youngest goal scorer - now owned by George Williams - the Dons schoolboy was in the thick of it when a fine flick-on from Smith was the catalyst to a dangerous forward move.
Smith's back heel to Tom Flanagan's free-kick released O'Shea down the left wing and when the cross was played into the box George Williams lashed his right-boot at the ball but watched as Peter Hartley produced a great block.
There was a nervous energy in the air as both sides went in search of a winner. The Dons did their best to strengthen their cause by introducing Paul Slane for his debut in the final five minutes of the game.
However, in the end there was nothing to separate the sides and a point for a threadbare Dons was a positive result to head back to Milton Keynes with.
Hartlepool United (4-3-3): Flinders; Austin, Collins (c), Hartley, Horwood; Sweeney, Murray, Humphreys (Baldwin 60); Monkhouse, Poole (Adjei 55), Brown (Boyd 73).
Subs not used: Rafferty, Haslam.
Goal: Poole 40
MK Dons (4-3-2-1): Martin; Tavernier, Kouo-Doumbe, Flanagan, Lewington (c); Smith, S Williams; Powell (Slane 85), Chadwick (G Williams 70), O'Shea; Ibehre.
Subs not used: McLoughlin, Chicksen.
Goal: O'Shea 51
Attendance: 4,955 (145 away)