MK Dons will have to win at Loftus Road if they are to reach the Fourth Round of the FA Cup after Heidar Helguson's 89th minute strike allowed Queens Park Rangers to draw 1-1 at stadiummk.
The Dons, playing in front of a record home crowd of 19,506, led from the 65th minute thanks to Dean Bowditch's ninth goal of the season and fully deserved to have a Cup upset on the cards against their Premier League opposition.
Karl Robinson's men bossed the game throughout and could have had a greater advantage had Jabo Ibehre's first half goal not been ruled out by the offside flag, and a penalty gone in their favour. However, the R's showed their hunger for a result in the Cup, despite being down to 10 men due to an injury to Alejandro Faurlin and all subs used, when Helguson made the most of a David Martin mistake.
Across the pitch Robinson would have been delighted with his players' performance with the defence solid throughout, Darren Potter and Stephen Gleeson running the show and pulling the strings in midfield which allowed the attacking four the licence to thrill.
The Dons are now due to travel to Lofus Road on Tuesday 17th January in hope of getting to the next round for the first time in their history.
The Dons, with two changes as Daniel Powell and Adam Smith took the places of Charlie MacDonald (injured) and Mathias Kouo-Doumbe, took to the pitch knowing they would be playing in front of a big crowd but the sight of a full stadiummk would have given the players an added incentive to impress.
From the offset QPR allowed the Dons to play football, giving them space to move the ball but any sign of a mistake was quickly picked up and would be punished. The Dons' lack of fear shone through and when Powell got a cross in from the right Dean Bowditch was inches from a connection that would have tested Redek Cerny.
One of the stars of the Dons' season so far has been Adam Smith, on loan from Spurs for the campaign, was in for one of his hardest tests trying to keep tabs on former Don Jamie Mackie. When the Scotsman broke free on the counterattack it was left to Smith to track quickly and by doing so he forced Mackie into an early shot which rose over the bar.
The visitors could not help but be impressed by the Dons' want to pass the ball and their risky 'pass from the back' strategy almost paid off when the ball was sprayed around the defence, despite the pressure from a host of orange shirts, and Dean Lewington raced into open space in midfield.
Lewington pushed the ball into the path of Luke Chadwick who, despite an awkward touch, fed the ball to Ibehre to flick a back heeled effort into the net, but celebrations were cut short by the offside flag. The move itself certainly deserved a goal and would have given the Dons the belief to stick to their principals.
With over 20 minutes played Bowditch showed great awareness as he closed down a QPR throw-in, and he had the vision to send a long ball into space for Ibehre to run into. When the attack started Cerny was left on his own, bit a fast recovery by Luke Young and Fitz Hall put the pressure on Ibehre and the striker's shot was sent straight at the Hoops' goalkeeper.
The Dons were entitled to feel aggrieved in the 25th minute when an attack saw the ball fall to Powell on the right and when he tried to play a cross into the box it looked to be clear block with the hands by Clint Hill, however, the referee Michael Oliver waved away the appeals.
Smith hassled the ball off Macheda, a lot would have been expected from the striker but having drifted to the left of midfield and allowing DJ Campbell to lead the line he faded quickly in the game, and brushed past Hall to advance to the edge of the box only to be denied by Cerny.
QPR's best chance of the half came in the closing minutes of the half when Macheda ran down the right flank before looping a wild shot at goal, yet David Martin was never in any danger as he collected before Campbell could get near the ball.
The Dons were dealt a blow at the interval when MacKenzie was forced off, presumably due to an injury, after an excellent half. It meant Kouo-Doumbe was called upon from the bench to help keep the Hoops as quiet as they had been in the opening 45 minutes, Warnock's half-time team talk must have urged his side to pile forward as that is exactly what the R's did.
For as little as he did in the first half, Macheda played a key role in their first chance to test the Dona after the break with a dangerous cross into the box that evaded the Dons' back line. However, when the delivery found Campbell the forward wasted his opportunity by sending his header from inside the six-yard box wide of the post.
QPR showed they were at stadiummk to win the tie as they brought off Campbell to introduced experienced striker and former Watford star Heidar Helguson. Yet, Warnock's reasons for making the sub were quickly undone when Helguson's mistake at the other end helped play a part in the Dons finding the breakthrough.
A corner from Bowditch went straight to Cerny, but the ball was only cleared as far as Shaun Williams who from the right of the box crossed back to Bowditch, it looked as though Helguson had it covered yet he gave into the pressure and allowed the Dons forward to drill a low shot into the bottom corner.
The day went from bad to worse for the visitors when Alejandro Faurlin appeared to land awkwardly when contesting Darren Potter for the ball and after lengthy treatment by the medical staff he was taken off on a stretcher to leave QPR, having made all three substitutions, to see out the remainder of the game with 10 men.
However, they did more than see the game out; a long punt down field called Martin off his line and the keeper was caught in two minds outside the box as he tried to intercept the ball from
Helguson, who was in an offside position as he collected the ball. The QPR striker was able to make amends for his goal-costing mistake as Martin dived to the floor he rounded the keeper and netted the equaliser to ensure the tie would be settled at Loftus Road.
MK Dons (4-2-3-1): Martin; Smith, MacKenzie (Kouo-Doumbe 45), Williams, Lewington (c); Potter, Gleeson; Powell, Chadwick, Bowditch; Ibehre.
Subs not used: McLoughlin, Flanagan, O'Shea, Lobjoit, Alli, Collins.
Goal: Bowditch 65
Queens Park Rangers: Cerny, Young, Hill, Hall, Gabbidon, Derry (Buzsaky 78), Faurlin, Mackie, T Smith, Campbell (Helguson 61), Macheda (Bothroyd 71).
Subs not used: Connolly, Murphy, Andrade, Orr.
Goal: Helguson 89
Referee: Michael Oliver (Northumberland)
Attendance: 19,506 (5,812 away)