MK Dons stretched their unbeaten run to five league games with an impressive point against promotion favourites Bolton Wanderers.
Kieran Agard’s 11th goal of the season deservedly cancelled out Jay Spearing’s opener before they pushed and almost claimed a winner in front of a record league crowd at Stadium MK of 21,545.
Robbie Neilson named an unchanged side from the one that enjoyed a superb 4-0 success over rivals Peterborough United last time out. New signings Maecky Ngombo and Stuart O’Keefe began on the bench.
The Dons threatened from a couple of early corners before Nicky Maynard mis-hit Ed Upson’s cut-back on the edge of the box.
The football took a back step on nine minutes as a moving minute’s applause was conducted in memory of Aiden Selleck, a nine-year-old Dons fan who sadly lost his battle with cancer earlier in the week.
Bolton began to ask some more questions of the Dons defence as the game approached the 20-minute mark but, thankfully for the Dons, their former striker Chris Long headed Filipe Morais’ cross wide from when well placed.
Midway through the half, in-form forward Chuks Aneke saw a shot blocked before he picked out Kieran Agard, who was crowded out as the crucial time.
Paul Downing came close to connecting with Upson’s corner on the half-hour mark as the men from MK1 started to take charge a little, especially in terms of possession and territorial advantage.
Shortly afterwards, Upson himself almost gave the Dons the lead when he curled a 20-yard free-kick on to the roof of the net.
Ben Alnwick produced a superb save to deny Barnes a fine solo effort just before the break after the Leicester City loanee had skipped past two defenders in style.
Against the run of play, Jay Spearing gave the visitors the lead on the stroke of half-time when his free-kick evaded everyone and found the far corner. Somewhat fortuitous.
There was little in the way of goalmouth action until 55 minutes when both Maynard and Barnes went within inches of a leveller for the Dons in the space of 60 seconds.
O’Keefe was introduced the following minute and he was involved as the men from MK1 levelled before the hour mark – brilliant work by George Baldock kept the ball alive, O’Keefe’s shot was blocked but Agard fired home a fine drive from 15 yards.
Barnes was becoming an increasingly-influential figure for the Dons, who were pushing to hit the front but the Trotters’ defence was holding firm.
Fellow new recruit Maecky Ngombo also came on his league debut in the 79th minute as Neilson looked to freshen up his attacking options going into the final period of the game.
However, it was one of the Dons’ defenders – Joe Walsh – who had the next chance as he brought down Barnes’ cross but his volley was blocked.
Roared on by that league record crowd, the Dons kept pushing for the winner with Bolton firmly on the back foot.
Barnes continued to pose a threat down the left and his dangerous cross was pushed out by Alnwick – the Dons kept the ball alive and captain Darren Potter forced another save.
The Dons’ late pressure wasn’t rewarded with a winner but still a strong point against a good side and, in particular, an impressive second-half showing.
Starting XI: Martin; Baldock, Downing, Walsh, Williams; Potter, Upson, Barnes; Agard (Bowditch 68), Aneke (O’Keefe 57), Maynard (Ngombo 79).
Unused subs: Nicholls, Tilney, Brittain, Muirhead.
Bookings: Aneke, O’Keefe.