MK Dons were held to a goalless draw at the Alexandra Stadium - a result which maintains their unbeaten start to the 2018/19 season.
Kieran Agard hit the woodwork with MK Dons’ best chance while they also had two penalty appeals turned down in the first half.
Paul Tisdale’s men were forced to see out the final seven minutes of the game with 10 men following a red card to substitute Mathieu Baudry. They did that successfully and headed back to Milton Keynes with a hard-earned point.
Paul Tisdale made just one change to the side which beat Bury last weekend, with the match-winner from that game, Ousseynou Cisse, coming in to replace Dylan Asonangyi. The 17-year-old striker was on the bench alongside Mathieu Baudry, Lawson D’Ath and Stuart Moore, who were all in the matchday squad for the first time this season.
Lee Nicholls was forced into an early save by Harry Pickering, who turned in the area and sent a right-footed shot towards the far post which the MK Dons goalkeeper palmed wide on the dive. Crewe kept the pressure on from the corner but Tisdale’s side eventually got it away.
They then responded with an attack down the right. Callum Brittain surged forwards down the right and laid it to Gilbey, who delivered a cross to the far post where Kieran Agard was lurking. He attempted a left-footed volley but couldn’t make a connection.
It was an end-to-end start and the next chance fell to Crewe’s James Jones, whose effort was deflected wide off Jordan Houghton. MK Dons then saw Ryan Watson, in similar range to where he scored his goal in midweek, have a drive blocked by a defender following some more good attacking work from Brittain.
On 11 minutes, it took a block from George Williams to prevent a low close-range shot from troubling Nicholls. Williams then watched on from the back as Alex Nicholls denied Agard in the box after the striker had latched onto Jordan Moore-Taylor’s superb through pass.
There was a stoppage in play a quarter of an hour in following a clash of heads involving Cisse and Nicky Hunt but it did little to stem the tempo of the match.
Williams was at it again defensively on 23 minutes, this time getting in the way of Callum Ainley’s try at goal. At the other end soon after, MK Dons had a penalty appeal turned down by referee Robert Lewis - Agard the man going down in the area following a tackle from Perry Ng.
Dave Richards was forced into a save shortly before the half-hour mark. Brittain picked out Watson with a cross from the right but the MK Dons number 7’s first-time hit was comfortably gathered.
Agard then saw a fierce drive from distance skim the crossbar as MK Dons began to turn up the heat on their hosts.
Crewe countered and worked their way into the area on 35 minutes only for Ainley’s attempt to be blocked by Moore-Taylor.
Late in the first half, Cisse went close to connecting with a cross from Brittain inside the six-yard box. MK Dons then went agonisingly close to taking the lead when Agard met a cross from Cisse but the striker’s close-range headed effort bounced off the post and away.
Tisdale’s men also had a second penalty shout turned down when Cisse, after controlling a long pass forward on his chest, was brought down in the area as he went to pull the trigger - referee Robert Lewis pointing out that he believed the defender got the ball.
The score remained goalless through to the break so both teams re-emerged with hopes of snatching a second-half win.
It didn’t start in the same end-to-end fashion as the first but both sides had spells of dominance inside the opening 10 minutes. Brittain made his way deep into the Crewe area at one stage but was dispossessed by Ainley.
The first shot on goal in the second half didn’t arrive until the 56th minute when Watson sent a speculative left-footed strike over the crossbar from the corner of the 18-yard box. Gilbey soon followed up with an effort of his own from distance - this one was deflected over the bar for a corner, which came to nothing for MK Dons.
Watson went a step closer to finding the net on 67 minutes with a fierce volley from the edge of the area which produced a strong diving save from Richards in the Crewe goal.
Tisdale then opted to make his first substitution, replacing Cisse with Asonganyi in attempt to inspire his side to take the lead.
Asonganyi had an immediate impact, flicking a ball through for Brittain to chase onto inside the area. Brittain’s cross didn’t come to anything but he got the ball back moments later. He then saw a low drive blocked before Asonganyi fired wide on the follow-up.
Crewe’s Paul Green blazed over with a quarter of an hour remaining as Crewe, who had been quiet during the second half, offered MK Dons a reminder of their threat. Williams and Nicholls then both denied Crewe substitute Chris Porter in speculator fashion - the latter making an excellent save at his near post.
Tisdale made his final two substitutions with eight minutes remaining, handing both Baudry and D’Ath their MK Dons debuts. The two combined moments after coming on and the latter delivered a cross which was well dealt with by Richards.
Crewe ramped up the pressure in the closing stages, sending numerous balls directly into the area. The MK Dons defence dealt with those deliveries and when they were breached on 88 minutes, they were saved by the offside flag.
Their efforts to come away with their unbeaten record in tact were made harder in the 89th minute when substitute Baudry, six minutes into his debut, was shown a straight red card for a tackle on Pickering.
They did, though, go close to finding the net a minute later through Watson but his curling shot fell wide of the right post.
MK Dons battled through the final five minutes of stoppage time to secure their reward - a point which makes it seven from a possible nine to begin the 2018/19 campaign.
Starting XI: Nicholls; Brittain (Baudry 82), Williams, Walsh, Moore-Taylor, Lewington (c); Houghton; Gilbey (D’Ath 82), Watson; Cisse (Asonganyi 68); Agard.
Unused subs: Moore, Hancox, Cargill, Simpson.
Sent off: Baudry (89)
Attendance: 3,505 (455 away)
Referee: R Lewis