A second-half goal from Walsall substitute Julien Ngoy saw MK Dons fall to a 1-0 defeat at the Banks’s Stadium.
Ngoy struck with 21 minutes remaining to ensure Dan Micciche’s men left the Midlands empty-handed, in a game where Robbie Muirhead had a shot cleared off the line and others went agonisingly close.
Elliott Ward was given his Dons debut as one of two changes made by boss Dan Micciche for his Sky Bet League One debut as manager. Conor McGrandles was the other new face in the starting XI while new recruit Josh Tymon was named among the substitutes.
Walsall threatened 90 seconds in with a shot from Joe Edwards which was saved by Lee Nicholls, with the loose ball cleared away by Ward. A minute later, Amadou Bakayoko fired over the crossbar before Erhun Oztumer followed up with an effort from 20-yards which Nicholls saw wide of the post.
The Dons worked their way into the Saddlers’ box for the first time in the fifth minute. McGrandles played a ball through for Tavernier to chase and his eventual low cross was cleared away in front of a lurking Kieran Agard.
Soon after, following a period of sustained pressure, another through ball saw George Williams get to the byline before sending in a low cross which was cleared behind for a corner. From the set piece, Lewington delivered a ball over to Sow at the far post but the striker couldn’t connect.
There was a penalty shout for Walsall in the 16th minute when Adam Chambers went down in the area under pressure from Alex Gilbey. It appeared as though it was the Saddlers man who instigated the contact and referee Christopher Sarginson appeared to agree as he waved away the appeals.
Micciche’s men went straight back on the attack and Ed Upson sent a 20-yard effort over the bar from an Agard lay-off. At the other end, a vital sliding tackle from Ward prevented Oztumer from threatening goal while Bakayoko had a shooting chance moments later but fired well off target.
On the half-hour mark, Sow came close to connecting with Upson’s through pass but Liam Roberts gobbled the pass up. Walsall then threatened with a free-kick which George Dobson sent low across the face of goal - a delivery which went untouched.
Oztumer had a good opportunity for the home side just before half-time but he headed high and wide from Edwards’ cross. Walsall also threatened with a corner in stoppage-time but the Dons were able to see out the danger.
The Dons started the second half brightly but it was their opponents who had the first attempt on goal - a Dobson strike which sailed harmlessly above Nicholls’ crossbar.
Micciche was then dealt a blow on 50 minutes as Sow was forced off with an injury. Robbie Muirhead was the man brought on to replace him.
The Dons boss then watched on as his side went agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock through the impressive Tavernier, who sent a right-footed shot just past the upright from the edge of the area, with goalkeeper Roberts beaten.
His team maintained the pressure and in the 55th minute Upson got the byline inside the Saddlers’ box. The midfielder did well to get a cross into the mix but couldn’t pick out a teammate as Roberts claimed.
Another excellent attacking move two minutes led to a chance for Agard but he couldn’t get to Williams’ low cross into the area. Williams had raced onto a terrific chipped pass from Gilbey before delivering the ball.
The Dons’ tails were up and on the 58 minutes substitute Muirhead drilled a fierce strike a yard over Roberts’ goal. Agard then curled a right-footed shot just wide after being set up by Lewington, who had just collected a cross-field pass from Muirhead.
Walsall responded through a Kieron Morris strike which failed to trouble Nicholls. The Saddlers then wasted a glorious opportunity to take the lead as an unmarked Bakayoko cleared the crossbar from inside the six-yard box.
Following the let off, Micciche’s men went straight up the other end and Muirhead saw an improvised acrobatic effort cleared off the line by a defender. Tavernier registered a shot on target from the resulting corner.
Oztumer bent one wide for Walsall in the 66th minute moments before the Saddlers playmaker was replaced by Julien Ngoy, much to the disappointment of the Saddlers fans inside the Banks’s Stadium.
It was Ngoy, though, who provided the breakthrough for Walsall as he cut inside and sent a low, right-footed shot inside Nicholls’ near post on 70 minutes. 1-0.
Upson almost provided an instant response for the Dons but his effort, from inside the area, was kept out by Roberts. Micciche then introduced forward Ike Ugbo, in place of McGrandles, for the final 18 minutes.
With a quarter of an hour remaining, a block from Ward prevented substitute Justin Shaibu doubling Walsall’s advantage.
The Dons were then dealt another injury blow as Tavernier had to be withdrawn on 81 minutes. Loanee Josh Tymon came on in his place, making his Dons debut in the process.
Three minutes later, fellow substitute Ugbo curled a shot wide from the edge of the box before Shaibu went close at the other end with an effort which fell just wide of the right post.
Ugbo's chance was the closest the Dons came in the closing stages, as they fell to a disappointing away defeat.
Starting XI: Nicholls; Williams, Wootton, Ward, Lewington (c); Gilbey, Upson; Sow (Muirhead 51), McGrandles (Ugbo 73), Tavernier (Tymon 81); Agard.
Unused subs: Sietsma, Brittain, Ebanks-Landell, Cisse.
Referee: C Sarginson
Attendance: 4,009 (436 away)