MK Dons fell to a narrow defeat at the hands of promotion favourites Wigan Athletic on the opening day of the 2017/18 season.
In a game which saw both sides finish with 10 men, the crucial goal came just after the half-hour mark when Nick Powell scored after the Latics had caught the Dons on the counter-attack.
Robbie Neilson included five of his summer signings in the starting XI, while the other three were among the substitutes.
The Dons hit back through a powerful run from Gboly Ariyibi, which probably should have resulted in a free-kick, before Ryan Seager tested Christian Walton from distance after a slick passing move.
Seager then turned provider with a clever pass to Kieran Agard, who cut in from the right and curled an effort just inches past the post.
At the other end, a sublime take from Michael Jacobs laid the foundations for a chance but Gavin Massey dragged his low drive wide of the target.
The game continued to ebb and flow with both sides delivering an entertaining opening-day fixture – the next chance fell to Ousseynou Cisse but he shot over from a tight angle 20 minutes in.
As the half-hour mark approached, Ariyibi got away down the left and earned a corner – from the resulting set-piece, Seager headed Ethan Ebanks-Landell’s knock-back just wide. One from the training field.
Lee Nicholls made his first save of the afternoon on 31 minutes, comfortably gathering Massey’s effort from 25 yards.
Shortly afterwards, Ariyibi fired a 25-yard free-kick into the wall but Wigan caught the men from MK1 on the counter on 38 minutes – Nick Powell finishing off the move with a calm finish.
However, Wigan were reduced to 10 men on 44 minutes when Callum Elder was shown a red card for a lunging challenge on George Williams – something the Dons would look to exploit in the second half.
Ariyibi was looking the most lively to create something and he latched on to an Aaron Tshibola pass before finding Seager, who shot just wide from a difficult angle on 53 minutes.
The Dons’ task was made far more difficult not long before the hour mark when Wootton was shown a red card after a foul on Jacobs – the referee deeming he was the last man despite having plenty of cover and the infringement taking place inside the semi-circle near the halfway line.
Nicholls ensured things didn’t get any worse a couple of minutes later when he superbly pushed away Ivan Toney’s header, which lifted the home crowd as the Dons looked for a way back into the game.
Dons’ new No.1 was called into action again on 66 minutes, making another superb stop to deny Jacobs after the Latics had broken with pace and purpose.
Pete Pawlett was introduced as the Dons looked to try and find a way past a stubborn Wigan defence and he was bright, even almost connecting with an overhead kick from an Ariyibi cross.
Brandon Thomas-Asante and Robbie Muirhead also came on as Neilson tried to freshen up his side’s attack going into the final 10 minutes, however, it was Ariyibi again who flashed next as he beat his man and crossed, but it was cleared away.
Thomas-Asante was particularly bright after coming in but the Dons were still finding it tough to deliver any clear-cut chances as the game ticked into the final stages.
That remained the case and Wigan left Stadium MK with all three points – the Dons will be looking to bounce back in Sky Bet League One at Blackpool next weekend.
Starting XI: Nicholls; Williams, Wootton, Ebanks-Landell, Lewington (c); Tshibola, Upson (Muirhead 80), Cisse; Agard (Thomas-Asante 80), Seager (Pawlett 63), Ariyibi.
Unused subs: Sietsma, Brittain, Downing, McGrandles.
Bookings: Williams, Seager, Muirhead.
Attendance: 9,164 (1,303 Wigan Athletic fans).