Two second-half goals saw MK Dons beat Newport County at Stadium MK and secure their third straight Sky Bet League Two victory.
The Dons, who saw a first-half penalty from Kieran Agard saved, edged in front just before the hour-mark courtesy of an Ousseynou Cisse header - his second goal of the campaign.
Paul Tisdale's men then doubled their lead through Chuks Aneke in the final minute of regulation time to seal a victory which keeps them within two points of the automatic promotion places in Sky Bet League Two.
Boss Tisdale was forced into making two changes to his starting XI with both Baily Cargill and Russell Martin unavailable due to injury. Mathieu Baudry and David Wheeler came into the side as a result - the former making his first start since New Year’s Day in a Dons back four.
The Dons made a composed start and were almost gifted a chance at goal in the fifth minute when a slip allowed Agard to pounce on Wheeler’s pass. A covering defender, though, managed to get back and clear for County.
Hesketh later produced a save out of Joe Day following a cutback from Alex Gilbey. The midfielder scuffed his first effort but was then teed up by Agard before sending a low drive into the arms of the Newport goalkeeper.
Two minutes later, a ball in from Dean Lewington led to a chance for Agard. Wheeler set him up with a chested pass but the MK Dons number 14 dragged his left-footed shot wide of the right upright.
Tisdale’s men were then, temporarily, forced to play with 10 men as Baudry was forced off for treatment on a gashed forehead.
It didn’t seem to affect them, however, as they worked their way up the field once more and saw a decent penalty appeal waved away by Sebastian Stockbridge. Dan Butler’s foot was well above head height as it connected with Conor McGrandles but the referee didn’t view the incident as a foul.
They were, though, awarded a spot kick on 25 minutes for another foul on McGrandles inside the area - this one from Dan Butler. Agard stepped up to take the penalty but wasn’t able to converted - denied by a terrific diving save from Day.
Newport started to offer a threat as the game moved past the hour mark, sending numerous teasing crosses into the penalty area. Baudry, Callum Brittain and Stuart Moore dealt with those.
MK Dons responded through Brittain, who showed good feet down the right before delivering a low ball from which Gilbey curled wide. Hesketh then threaded a ball through for Wheeler to chase but he was just beaten to it by Day.
With four minutes remaining in the half, Wheeler connected with McGrandles’ clipped delivery but saw his header saved. That was the final chance of a positive first 45 from Tisdale’s side, who were unlucky not to head into the break with an advantage.
They went about changing that early in the half but Hesketh’s attempt was blocked on its way to goal. Newport, too, had a quick chance at opening the scoring but Padraig Amond’s deflected try was gathered by Moore.
County threatened again on 49 minutes from a Robbie Willmott cross which Jamille Matt wasn’t able to divert goalwards.
Baudry, who bravely fought on despite that gash to his forehead, was forced with another ailment in the 50th minute, replaced by Jordan Houghton, who slotted in at centre back alongside Walsh. While Dons adjusted, Tyreeq Bakinson fired high and wide from the edge of the D.
The Dons then went close to scoring through Hesketh, who won the ball on the left-hand touchline and delivered a low cross which was intercepted right in front of McGrandles, who would have had the goal at his mercy.
Moments later, McGrandles went even closer to meeting a cross from Gilbey which led to a corner from which Agard had a header brilliantly turned around the post by Day. A second corner followed and from that set-piece, they took the lead.
The corner, taken by McGrandles, was played short and eventually worked its way back to the Scotsman, whose whipped cross was met at the far post by Cisse, who powered a header low into the net to make it 1-0.
Tisdale used the stoppage to introduce Chuks Aneke in place of Wheeler and the frontman almost provided the Dons with an instant second but, from his pass, Hesketh wasn’t able to convert from close range.
They were almost made to rue that missed opportunity in the 64th minute but Amond blazed wide when well placed, moments after Moore had instinctively kept out Ben Kennedy at his near post.
Tisdale when watched on as his side again went close to scoring a second. Agard teed up Aneke in the area but the Dons’ number 10 saw his half-volley blocked bravely.
Newport responded with an attack in the 71st minute but both Matt and substitute Adebayo Azeez failed to produce a header needed to convert from close range. Walsh did connect with a header at the other end of the pitch but his effort was saved.
Day also kept out a header from Aneke, moments before watching a curling strike Hesketh skid just wide of his right-hand upright.
With 12 minutes to play, Walsh put himself in the way of Azeez’s strike on goal. Tisdale then made his final change of the afternoon, replacing Hesketh with Ryan Harley.
The Dons were holding on as the game entered the closing stages and their hearts were in mouths on 88 minutes when Mark O'Brien flicked a header towards the top corner. Moore, though, leaped across his goal to make a stunning - and crucial - save.
Walsh was then forced to put behind a threatening ball with but Stadium MK was soon breathing easy, as Tisdale’s men put the game to bed in the final minute of regulation time.
Aneke was the scorer of the second and final goal, collecting a flick on from Agard before driving into the area, manouvering his way into space and firing home his 16th goal of the campaign. Job done. 2-0.
Starting XI: Moore; Brittain, Baudry (Houghton 50), Walsh, Lewington (c); Cisse; Gilbey, McGrandles; Hesketh (Harley 84); Agard, Wheeler (Aneke 57).
Unused subs: Nicholls,Watson, Simpson, Walker.
Goals: Cisse (57), Aneke (90)
Referee: S Stockbridge
Attendance: 6,984 (340 away)