MK Dons failed to take advantage of their game in hand on the top six as they slipped to a 2-0 defeat to Crewe Alexandra on Tuesday night.
Despiting dominating for the majority of the contest Karl Robinson's men, who missed a second-half penalty, were beaten for the first time in the League in 2014 courtesy of a fine free-kick from Chuks Aneke and a neat finish from Ajay Leitch-Smith.
The result sees the Dons remain in 10th place in Sky Bet League 1 but Peterborough United's victory over Notts County means they are now eight points adrift of the play-off places.
Robinson made two changes to his side for the trip to Alexandra Stadium with Dele Alli returning to the starting line-up after missing the last two matches through a leg injury.
And it was Alli, in that number 10 role, who would have the game’s first chance after just 50 seconds; the England Under-18 international trying his luck from 25-yards out only to see his effort fly narrowly over the crossbar.
Alli’s chance was then followed-up with the first effort on target for the hosts although Bradden Inman’s right-footed curler never really troubled David Martin, who made a comfortable save at his near post.
Conditions were less than ideal at Gresty Road, with the rain relentlessly pouring onto the already heavy playing surface, but Robinson’s side were still happy to keep the ball on the floor and try to carve their opponents open in their usual fluid style.
On 16 minutes, Alli went close once again with a left-footed shot which bounced just wide of the post before fellow youngster Samir Carruthers crashed a fierce drive against the woodwork from the edge of the area.
Carruthers has received a lot of praise from manager Robinson in recent weeks for his impressive performances as a member of the Dons’ attacking trio and the loanee went close again moments later; this time his shot was well held by Crewe ‘keeper Ben Garratt.
The Alex were forced to remain patient for the majority of the first half, with the Dons enjoying most of the possession, but they did threaten agai on 26 minutes when Chuks Aneke headed Kelvin Mellor’s cross into the outstretched arms of Martin from eight yards.
Williams then threatened with a free-kick right on the edge of the area before Crewe were awarded a set piece of their own on 35 minutes - and, unlike the Dons, they took full advantage.
Aneke, formerly of Arsenal, was the man who won the free-kick and the 20-year-old confidently dusted himself down to bend a fierce effort over the wall and past the right hand of Martin for the game’s opening goal.
Aneke’s strike certainly stug the Dons, who began to allow their opponents much more of the ball as the half drew to a close, Robinson’s side still managed to muster the final opportunity of the first period - Alli dragging a shot just wide of the left-hand upright after a neat through-ball from Gleeson.
After his side failed to make an immediate impact in the second half, Robinson brought on Dean Bowditch in place of the Dele Alli and from the winger's corner on 54 minutes the Dons were handed an opportunity to draw level.
Referee Richard Clark adjudged Crewe defender Harry Davis to have handled Bowditch's inswinging corner but Williams, who missed his first penalty in over two years against Wigan Athletic earlier this month, saw his effort from 12-yards palmed away by Garratt.
The penalty miss just about summed up the way things were going for the Dons although they did get a slice of good fortune on 57 minutes when, after being played clean through, Byron Moore slipped at the crucial moment and fired his shot straight at Martin. The Dons 'keeper still had a lot to do, however and he denied the winger, bravely, with his chest.
But, in the 68th minute, Leitch-Smith was able to keep his footing when one-on-one with Martin and, unlike his team-mate, find the back of the net to make it 2-0 and give the hosts a comfortable lead heading into the final 20 minutes
The men from MK1, to their credit, continued to fight for a way back into the game and they twice went close in the 76th minute but neither Bowditch or Powell could direct their shots past Garratt.
Chadwick then fired over from a Reeves corner in the final few minutes of the game.
Crewe Alexandra: Garratt, Tootle, Mellor, Davis, Ellis, Leitch-Smith (Pogba 88), Moore, Inman, Evans, Aneke, Grant (Osman 81).
Subs: Martin (GK), Dugdale, Ray, Guthrie, Waters.
Goals: Aneke 35, Leitch-Smith 69
MK Dons (4-2-3-1): Martin; Baldock, Kay, Williams, Lewington (c); Potter, Gleeson; Reeves, Alli (Bowditch 51), Carruthers (Chadwick 61); Long (Powell 57).
Subs: McLoughlin (GK), Flanagan, Smith, McLeod.
Booked: Gleeson, Baldock
Referee: Richard Clark (Northumberland)
Attendance: 3,613 (133 away)