Report: Crawley Town 2-2 Dons
Alli finished coolly from 12 yards in the fifth minute of injury time after Will Grigg had reduced the arrears on 75 minutes.
Former Don Izale McLeod had initially given the hosts a 2-0 lead, but Karl Robinson’s men fought back brilliantly and moved up to third in the process.
McLeod scored in each half before a Will Grigg header made for a very interesting final 15 minutes, during which time the men from MK1 did everything but find an equaliser.
Ben Reeves replaced Dean Bowditch in the only change from the Dons’ last league game against Walsall on Sunday 28th December.
Former Don Izale McLeod had the first chance of the afternoon as early as the second minute but he took an air-shot with ex-Red Kyle McFadzean blocking his view.
The men from MK1 responded with a shot from Jordan Spence which was comfortably saved by Brian Jensen in the Crawley goal.
Robinson’s side came very close to opening the scoring on eight minutes when Dele Alli sent a 20-yard drive inches past the right-hand post after some superb interchange with the lively Will Grigg.
Despite a good spell of pressure, the Dons found themselves behind on 14 minutes when McLeod picked himself up after being fouled in the area by McFadzean and fired past David Martin from the spot.
Looking to respond as the midway point of the first half approached, Reeves got to the byline and cut it back to Baker, who forced a smart save out of Jensen.
Baker was again involved in the next break as his cross was met by Carruthers at the back post, but Jensen gathered comfortably, as he did from a curling 20-yard effort from the same man on 28 minutes.
Gavin Tomlin fired into the side-netting from inside the area as Crawley looked to extend their lead, but it was the Dons enjoying more of the ball and territorial advantage.
After a driving run forward, Carruthers collided with Jensen as the latter dived at the winger’s feet on 37 minutes, but the challenge left the former Burnley stopper injured – striker Matt Harrold replaced him with no substitute keeper on the bench.
Harrold’s first involvement saw him palm away Reeves’ 25-yard free-kick, but he couldn’t stop Alli rounding him a minute later although he was thwarted by Joe Walsh, who appeared to bring the 18-year-old down as he prepared to shoot. Referee Salisbury waved away the appeals.
Baker shot narrowly wide and Spence over the top as the Dons continued to push forward for an equaliser but nothing was doing before the half-time whistle.
Their job got harder just two minutes after the interval when McLeod’s deflected 15-yard effort found the back of the net despite the appeals for offside.
Reeves, who fired wide after nice build-up play on the edge of the box on 53 minutes, shot straight at Harrold when well placed on the hour mark after meeting a cross from Dean Bowditch, who replaced Carruthers.
Bowditch, looking to make things happen on the left wing, went close to reducing the arrears with two long-range efforts, as Robinson’s side maintained the intense pressure on the hosts.
A goal-line clearance from a Crawley defender preserved the home side’s 2-0 lead on 70 minutes after Reeves’ corner had caused mayhem in the box.
Harrold almost gifted the Dons a way back into the game on 73 minutes when his clearance was chased down by Grigg, but the striker, playing in goal, made amends by running back and gathering on the goal-line ahead of the Northern Ireland international.
The Dons’ pressure finally told on 76 minutes when Grigg headed Reeves’ pinpoint cross over Harrold from close range to make it 2-1.
Daniel Powell and Tom Hitchcock, back from his loan spell at Fleetwood Town, were introduced as Robinson’s men tried to turn their domination into an equaliser.
Baker curled over and McFadzean saw a shot cleared off the line in injury-time, but the Dons saved the drama for almost the final kick as Alli coolly slotted home from 12 yards.
They never stopped believing.
Starting XI: Martin; Spence (Powell 63), McFadzean, Kay (Hitchcock 87), Lewington (c); Potter, Alli; Baker, Reeves, Carruthers (Bowditch 51); Grigg.
Unused subs: McLoughlin, Hodson, Baldock, Green.
Goals: Grigg (76), Alli (90+5).
Bookings: Alli, Baker.
Attendance: 2,468 (424 Dons fans).