An injury-time penalty from Shaun Williams saw MK Dons end Sheffield United’s 16-game unbeaten League run and lifted the Dons level on points with the play-off places.
The Dons looked destined to be frustrated at the final whistle as they dominated proceedings only to be frustrated by United and the referee, but with time running out a foul on Angelo Balanta presented the Dons with the chance to seal a late win.
Last minute goals in favour of the Dons are rare, but Williams kept his cool to slot home the deserved winner.
It was two of the Leagues’ meanest defences going head to head in battle, with both sides hoping something would give.
There was a buzz about the Dons’ play from the first minute with great tempo to the game. There was plenty to get the supporters excited in the early stages as Angelo Balanta cut in from the left wing to find Luke Chadwick in acres of space and the Dons’ top goal scorer fizzed his shot inches over.
The Dons looked at ease against the team who have been unbeaten in the League this season – in fact United’s last regular League defeat came at stadiummk back in April – as Ryan Lowe went wide to deliver a strong cross for Dean Bowditch, but the forward was unable to turn the ball home.
The home side were in control, but there were quick warning signs for the Dons that the flow of the match could quickly change when Ryan Flynn parted the Dons defence with ease, getting passed Stephen Gleeson and Dean Lewington, but Jon Otsemobor arrived in the nick of time to cut out the pull back before Neill Blackman could get on the end of it.
An intriguing contest was unfolding as the Dons launched on a counter-attack with Jon Otsemobor bombing down the right flank to find Lowe, yet his snap shot, after initially being spilt, was cleared up by George Long.
United were dealt an early blow when defender Tony McMahon limped off down the tunnel and forced Danny Wilson into making his first substitution of the game.
Shortly after the half-an-hour-mark David Martin was forced into action for the first real time when Blackman shaped up on the edge of the area and called on a low save from the Dons goalkeeper.
The battle was absorbing at stadiummk, the test in midfield between Gleeson and Potter and McDonald and Doyle was at the heart of proceeding, but both teams were benefitting from their wide, expansive players.
Robinson’s men continued to press for the opener as half-time approached with Gleeson finding Balanta who also tested Long, while Lowe turned a header wide.
There was huge controversy before the interval when another through ball from Balanta was played into the box and Bowditch, running at speed, was sent tumbling as he reached the ball by Collins. The Dons were left furious – prompting Robinson to pull his players away from referee Darren Sheldrake.
United, with a re-shuffle in defence following the half-time addition of David McAllister, looked lively after the interval, yet it was the Dons who once again edged closer to scoring. Some excellent play from Balanta proved key in creating chances when he produced an excellent threaded ball to Chadwick who, in turn, found Lowe but the ball met him at an awkward angle and the striker fired his shot straight at Long.
At the opposite end Kevin McDonald was afforded the room and time to test Martin, but the shot was deflected en route and it proved to be an easy claim for the ‘keeper.
The Dons were building up their pressure as they bombarded the United box with three successive corners before a throw-in from Otsemobor was bravely volleyed over by Antony Kay.
United felt they had their own penalty claims in the 69th minute when Blackman’s attempt to collect a loose high ball saw him collide with Otsemobor, but the referee was not moved by the appeal which largely came from the travelling supporters.
There was certainly a sense that decisions were not falling in the Dons’ favour during the game, which was only highlighted further when a rash challenge by Maguire on Potter had the latter’s team-mates incensed on the pitch. The United defender would have counted himself lucky to only see yellow.
However, with time on the clock running out the Dons’ luck seemed to have changed when Balanta was sent tumbling in the box under the challenge of Darryl Westlake and the referee pointed to the spot.
In front of the Cowshed the pressure was on Williams to deliver, but the Irishman showed no pressure whatsoever as he picked his spot and raced away to celebrate with the roar of the crowd behind him.
The Dons will now switch their focus to the FA Cup with Budweiser First Round Replay, which takes place on Tuesday at stadiummk.
MK Dons: (4-2-3-1): Martin; Otsemobor, Kay, Williams, Lewington; Potter, Gleeson; Bowditch, Chadwick, Balanta (Kouo-Doumbe 90); Lowe (Smith 59).
Subs not used: McLoughlin, MacDonald, Chicksen, O’Shea, Sekajja.
Sheffield United: Long; McMahon (Westlake 26), Maguire, Collins, Hill (McAllister 46); Flynn, McDonald, Doyle (c); M Williams; Porter, Blackman (74).
Subs not used: Willis, Cresswell, Ironside, Kennedy.
Attendance: 9,835 (1,854 away)
Referee: Darren Sheldrake (Surrey)
Goal-Don Goal times: 1st goal - 89.50