MK Dons moved back into the automatic promotion places in Sky Bet League Two courtesy of a 2-1 victory over Notts County at Meadow Lane.
After a tightly-contest first half ended goalless, the Dons edged in front soon after the hour through David Wheeler, who headed home from a Dean Lewington corner.
Substitute Chuks Aneke scored a terrific second late - his 19th goal of the campaign - and despite Ben Barclay’s injury-time header, Paul Tisdale’s men were able to hang on to secure the points - points which lift them up to third in the Sky Bet League Two table with three games left to play.
Boss Tisdale made one change to his starting XI with Wheeler coming in for Aneke up front. The Dons were also able to welcome back George Williams and Robbie Simpson from injury - the pair took up places on the bench.
Wheeler had the ball in the net inside the opening four minutes but play was pulled back for a foul by the forward in the build-up. At the other end of the pitch, Michael Doyle tested Lee Nicholls with a dipping long-range drive which the goalkeeper claimed.
A minute later, Conor McGrandles created some room for a shot on the edge of the County penalty area. His low effort had some power behind it but Ryan Schofield got down well to save. Notts responded through Jim O’Brien, who blazed a shot over from 25 yards.
Both teams were restricted to efforts from distance early on. Ousseynou Cissé was the next to try his luck from outside the area - his left-footed try flew harmlessly over the crossbar.
The Dons eventually managed to work their way into the penalty area in the 21st minute when Wheeler flicked on a long ball forward from Russell Martin. Kieran Agard latched onto it but was quickly closed down and dispossessed.
That led to successive corners and from the latter, a flying punch from Schofield prevented Wheeler from heading home an opening goal. The Queens Park Rangers loanee went even closer two minutes later but wasn’t able to fashion a shot after being picked out at the far post by Cissé.
Notts then found themselves inside MK Dons’ box in the 28th minute but Martin was in the right place to stab clear Craig Mackail-Smith’s low cross.
The Dons worked their best attack of the first half an hour on the 30-minute mark. Callum Brittain played a ball over to Wheeler, who managed to work it to Ryan Harley. He teed up Jake Hesketh whose cross was met by McGrandles at the far post - he, though, wasn’t able to get a shot on goal.
Tisdale’s men kept their foot on the pedal and Agard went close a minute later with a right-footed shot which he flashed wide from 10 yards. McGrandles with the work in the build-up to create the opportunity.
The hosts offered a reminder of their attacking threat three minutes later through Kane Hemmings although he failed to trouble Nicholls with his attempt from the edge of the area. Neither did Mitch Rose when he let fly from 30 yards with four minutes to play in the half.
Hesketh had a chance late in the half while Nicholls did well to come off his line and gather a cross aimed towards Hemmings in stoppage time. Neither side, however, were able to get on the scoresheet before the whistle.
The Dons earned themselves a free-kick early in the second period following a foul on Hesketh. Dean Lewington delivered the ball into the area but Schofield went up to gather ahead of Martin.
Cissé was the next to try his luck with a rasping left-footed strike from 25-yards out which whistled just past the post.
Tisdale then introduced Chuks Aneke on the hour mark and he went in straight into the mix for a corner from which Martin sent a looping header onto the roof of the net.
The Dons won another corner two minutes later and from that, they took the lead. Lewington delivered from the right and his cross landed perfectly on the head of Wheeler, who sent a header into an unguarded far post. 0-1.
Notts almost responded straight from kick-off but Craig Mackail-Smith was twice denied by Nicholls. MK Dons countered from his second save but Harley saw a shot blocked on its way to goal.
Tisdale’s side then put together another fine attacking move down the right involving Brittain, Agard and McGrandles. The latter eventually delivered a cross to Aneke, whose header down to Wheeler was intercepted.
Aneke almost made it two in the 68th minute after playing a one-two with Agard. The MK Dons number 10 managed to wriggle into space inside the area but was denied by Schofield from a tight angle.
O’Brien had the chance to punish Aneke and the Dons on 70 minutes but sent his drive above Nicholls' goal from the corner of the area. Agard then almost made Notts pay for that miss but he failed to beat Schofield after latching onto Aneke’s through pass.
Those chances sprung the game truly to life and Nicholls was called into action a minute later, brilliantly palming a Jon Stead header wide. Robert Milsom then saw a deflected volley fly narrowly wide shortly after.
On 79 minutes, Nicholls was forced to punch clear a deflected Stead cross before it landed on the head of an awaiting Mackail-Smith. Harley took a wack from his goalkeeper in the process - a victim of Nicholls’ determination to get the ball clear.
Tisdale made his second substitution moments later, handing Williams his first appearance since suffering a hamstring injury away at Bury in January. Williams almost made an instant impact but, from his cross, Agard headed wide.
Hearts were in mouths on 86 minutes when Mackail-Smith sprung the Dons' offside trap and found himself in on goal. The Dons' defence, though, raced back in their numbers to close off any crossing option and the chance eventually went begging.
It was Williams who eventually cleared lines with a stronget header up to Agard. He brought play under control before finding Aneke who sent himself clear on goal by knocking the ball around the final Notts defender on the half-way line. The striker had plenty of time to pick his spot as he moved forwards one-on-one and, in the end, he cooly found the net with a right-footed strike into the top corner. 0-2.
The Dons had seven minutes plus stoppage time to see the game out and in the fourth of those additional minutes, Notts defender Barclay glanced home a header to reduce the deficit for the hosts. 1-2.
Tisdale's side, though, were able to get across the line and secure a valuable three points.
Starting XI: Nicholls; Brittain, Martin, Houghton, Lewington; McGrandles, Cisse, Harley (Watson 89); Wheeler (Williams 82), Agard, Hesketh (Aneke 60).
Unused subs: Moore, D’Ath, Simpson, Walker.
Goals: Wheeler (63), Aneke (84)
Referee: T Harrington
Attendance: 7,130 (985 away)
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