Tom Hopper’s 78th-mintue header saw MK Dons beaten 2-1 by Lincoln City in their opening home league match of the 2020/21 campaign.
The Imps took the lead at Stadium MK through a controversial penalty, converted by Jorge Grant, but MK Dons levelled things up midway through the second half courtesy of Joe Mason.
Lincoln, though, would secure all three points with 12 minutes to play – Hopper’s header proving the difference during a tight affair.
Martin made two changes from the side which drew away at Doncaster Rovers on the opening day of the season, with Callum Brittain and Joe Mason coming in to replace Lasse Sorensen and Sam Nombe.
The latter had an early opportunity to break the deadlock but failed to hit the target with his first-time effort from Regan Poole’s low cross.
Lincoln were then handed the chance to do so on 10 minutes, after referee Brett Huxtable awarded the Imps a penalty despite Baily Cargill clearly getting the ball when challenging Tom Hopper inside the box. Jorge Grant took the spot kick for the visitors and sent Nicholls the wrong way to put them ahead. 0-1.
Last-ditch defending from Poole prevented Lincoln doubling their lead eight minutes later, racing back to clear in front of Grant, who would have had a clear sight of goal from Harry Anderson’s ball across.
Poole was involved at the other end moments later, meeting a cross-field pass from Jordan Houghton and then sending a volleyed cross into the area – one which was hooked clear by an Imps defender.
The right-back was having a strong outing on the right and he took control of a free-kick on the half-hour mark, following a foul on Mason on the edge of the D. Poole struck a fierce right-footed shot towards goal and former Don Conor McGrandles took the full force of it in the face to prevent it troubling his goalkeeper. He also had the final chance of the half, dragging a shot wide from 25 yards out.
Lincoln had the first opening of the second period, with James Jones racing through on goal after a quicky taken free-kick. Kasumu, though, got back in the nick of time to get a vital touch on the ball and prevent the shot.
Nicholls was then called into action with eight minutes played in the half, producing a stunning point-blank save to keep out Anderson’s close-range effort.
It took the Dons a while to get going in the second half but when they did, they looked threatening and just before the hour they made their building pressure count.
Poole created it with a run inside from the right but it was Brittain’s aggressiveness that provided Mason with a one-on-one opportunity, which he cooly took advantage of for his first goal since returning to MK Dons. 1-1.
Martin made his first substitution in the 65th minute, replacing Harvie with Matthew Sorinola on the left-hand side. Ben Gladwin followed seven minutes later, taking the spot of Kasumu just seconds after he went into the book.
The MK Dons number 7 had an instant impact, letting fly with a right-footed drive which deflected over the crossbar. From the resulting corner, Sorinola saw an effort blocked moments before Alex Palmer denied Lewington with a terrific diving save.
Martin’s men were looking the more likely to take the lead, but it was Lincoln who would re-establish their advantage with 12 minutes left to play – Hopper climbing inside the six-yard box to meet a cross and power a header past Nicholls. 1-2.
With little time left, the Dons started to go forward in numbers which provided Lincoln with several opportunities to add a third at the other end. Their best chance fell to Jones, who saw his attempt saved by Nicholls.
Martin’s men had opportunities too. Brittain came close to latching onto a loose ball from a deflected Mason shot, but Palmer was quick off his line to gather at the MK Dons man’s feet.
Scott Fraser was added to the mix with five minutes to play, bolstering the Dons’ attacking options. His fellow sub, Gladwin then threatened with a free-kick which was saved by Palmer in the centre of his goal.
The best chance felt to Mason in the final minute of stoppage time – a first-time effort from O’Hora’s cross which Palmer got his legs too to keep out.
MK Dons: Nicholls, Lewington, Poole (Fraser 86), Cargill, Kasumu (Gladwin 73), Morris, O’Hora, Mason, Harvie (Sorinola 64), Houghton, Brittain
Subs: Walker, Sorensen, Nombe, Freeman.
Goal: Mason (60)
Booked: Harvie, Houghton, Cargill, Brittain, Kasumu
Lincoln City: Palmer, Montsma, Jackson, Jones, Hopper, Grant, McGrandles, Eyoma, Bridcutt (Morton 66), Anderson, Roughan (Melbourne 66).
Subs: Ross, Edun, Scully, Archibald, Walsh.
Goals: Grant (10 pen), Hopper (79)
Booked: Jones, Morton
Referee: B Huxtable