Dean Bowditch struck in injury time to rescue a point for MK Dons as they drew 2-2 with Shrewsbury Town at New Meadow.
The Dons appeared to be heading back to Milton Keynes with a defeat to their name as the Shrews came from a goal down to lead 2-1 but there was a late sting in the tail as Karl Robinson’s men netted their third late goal in as many games.
Angelo Balanta fired the Dons in front on the stroke of half-time, yet Shrewsbury came out of the traps in electric form in the second half and goals from Luke Rodgers and former Dons winger Mark Wright turned the game on its head.
Yet, the Dons’ fighting spirit showed in the late stages and despite a poor overall performance, they will be pleased to take something from the struggling Shrews.
Due to the compact nature of League 1 this season the Dons saw themselves rise to second in the game while they were leading and end the night in third place.
The Dons made one change to the side which beat League leaders Tranmere Rovers four days earlier with Alan Smith taking the place of Ryan Lowe up front.
With confidence on their side the Dons were keen to break the deadlock in the early phases and boss the direction of the game. The tempo was lively and energetic with plenty of the ball played through midfield.
The first notable attempt at goal from the Dons came in the fifth minute when Dean Bowditch cut in from the right to find Angelo Balanta who, after switching from his left to right foot, curled a shot wide.
There was panic in the Shrews’ box in the 10th minute when Chris Weale made the brave move to race off his line to meet Bowditch’s run down the right of the box. It was a dangerous move by the home goalkeeper as the wide man got the better of him and was able to cut back to Luke Chadwick, who had timed his run to perfection yet was undone by Julian Bennett as the defender was able to deflect the effort wide.
Shrewsbury were holding strong and were not prepared to be overpowered by their visitors, but were unable to create chances that threatened David Martin in the Dons’ goal. The Dons, however, looked dangerous when the ball was played through Bowditch and the former Yeovil striker delivered another peach of a cross which fell an inch away from the diving Smith, who desperately tried to head beyond Weale.
There was a warning sign for the Dons though when Luke Rodgers picked up a wonderfully weighted pass only to see Shaun Williams’ sliding block turn the ball wide.
The Dons arguably should have taken the lead when Darren Potter threaded the ball through to Chadwick who allowed the ball to run too long which invited Weale to collect at his feet before he could force a shot.
As the half an hour approached Shrewsbury appeared to come to life and forced the Dons into uncharacteristic errors, including forcing Potter to surrender possession, while the defence were kept on their toes by the lively work of Marvin Morgan and Martin was alert as Luke Summerfield lifted a shot over the bar from outside the area.
The Shrews were on the ascendancy, ensuring Martin’s palms were kept warm while taking advantage of the Dons’ slip in performance levels with Jon Taylor drifting across the box to for a low save from the goalkeeper.
Despite the dip in their performance in the latter stages of the half the Dons ended on a high when some excellent build up play allowed Bowditch, who was once again in scintillating form, to turn the ball into the path of Balanta who showed fine compose to pass the ball into the back of the net.
Graham Turner’s side re-started the second half with their tails up and on the attack, forcing the Dons on to the back foot with Morgan again proving to be a handful and flashing a shot across goal as the home side appeared to be edging ever-closer to an equaliser.
The offside flag came the Dons’ rescue 10 minutes into the second half when Rodgers appeared to have just got the better of the back four and would have been clear through to goal only for the assistant to rule to striker offside.
As the hour-mark approached Robinson’s hand was forced into picking from his substitutes’ bench as Lewington appeared to pick up a knock, resulting in the introduction of Adam Chicksen
while Balanta made way for Daniel Powell.
Dons would have hoped the introduction of pace would have worked in their favour, but Shrewsbury had the wind in their sails and were causing the defence a whole host of problems with Rodgers once again breaching the backline and forcing a save from Martin, who was duly relieved to see the offside flag once again raised.
The Shrews had been threatening an equaliser since returning from the interval and in the 65th minute they got the leveller their attitude and application had deserved. It came courtesy if a long looped hopeful ball over the Dons defence by Richards which invited Morgan to run clear, at that point Martin opted to leave his line but he failed to reach the ball in time.
Morgan cut the ball back from the byline with Martin still scrambling to get back to his line, and Rodgers emphatically finished into the back of the net to spark celebrations from the New Meadow crowd.
Morgan could and should have fired Shrewsbury in front only minutes later when he sliced through the Dons defence yet blasted his shot into the side netting.
Former Dons man Wright though was the man to fire the home side in front when he went unnoticed as he darted down the left on to a Richards through ball and, despite Jon Otsemobor and Powell trying to recover; the winger was able to curl the ball into the top right-hand corner.
As the Dons tried to re-gather the home supporters started to get nervy; Gleeson felt he had a strong shout for a penalty when he tumbled under the pressure of Darren Jones, but the referee had different view, while Bowditch went within inches as his low strike was deflected just wide of the right post.
In the final stages the Dons were forced to end the game with just 10 men on the pitch as Powell limped off down the tunnel as his team-mates desperately searched for an equaliser.
And there was life in the Dons in the dying seconds when Smith, who battled all evening, laid the ball off to Bowditch and the forward produced a sensational volley from outside the area to seal a dramatic draw.
Shrewsbury Town (4-4-2): Weale; Grandison, Jones, Bennett, Jacobson; Taylor, Summerfield, Richards (c), Wright; Morgan, Rodgers.
Subs: Anyon, Purdie, Hall, Doble, Goldson, Wildig, Helan.
Goals: Rodgers 65, Wright 72
MK Dons (4-2-3-1): Martin; Otsemobor, Williams, Kay, Lewington (c) (Chicksen 58); Potter, Gleeson; Bowditch, Chadwick (MacDonald 75), Balanta (Powell 58); Smith.
Subs: McLoughlin, Kouo-Doumbe, Lowe, Sekajja
Booked: Smith, MacDonald
Goal: Balanta 45, Bowditch 90
Attendance: 4,747 (183 away)