MK Dons secured a vital three points in the bid for Sky Bet League One survival courtesy of a 3-2 success over Rotherham United at Stadium MK.
The Dons fell behind early on but bounced back to lead at the break courtesy of goals from Robbie Muirhead and Peter Pawlett.
Muirhead doubled his and the team’s advantage in the second half and despite Jon Taylor’s late strike setting up a nervy finish, Dan Micciche’s men were able to hold on to seal a much-needed victory - one which moves them to within four points of safety.
Pawlett and Osman Sow both returned to the starting line-up for Micciche’s Dons along with midfielder Ed Upson, now back from suspension.
Both sides threatened goal early on. Rotherham went close through a Joe Mattock cross which Elliott Ward did well to turn behind in front of Caolan Lavery. At the other end, Sow headed Callum Brittain’s cross into the side netting following a corner.
Later, the Dons were fortunate to see Shaun Cummings’ teasing low delivery go untouched across the six-yard area before Michael Smith forced Lee Nicholls into a routine save with a header.
On 11 minutes, Rotherham earned themselves a corner and from the set piece they took the lead - Ajayi the goalscorer, converting from inside the six-yard box after Lavery’s header down. 0-1.
The Dons’ response was positive. In the 16th minute, Pawlett earned them a corner of their own which led to a chance for Brittain, whose shot was deflected into the arms of Marek Rodak.
Sow then tried his luck with a bending effort from 20-yards out which just went past the upright before a low cross in from Muirhead was intercepted in front of a lurking Chuks Aneke.
Micciche’s men were spending an extended period of time in the Millers’ half and on 24 minutes they went close again through Aneke, who headed over from a Muirhead corner.
On their first foray forward for over a quarter of an hour, Rotherham saw Will Vaulks send an ambitious right-footed volley well wide of goal. They then had the next attempt - a deflected strike from Richie Towell which Nicholls saw all the way into his arms.
Despite those chances, it was the Dons who continued to dominate and they had a glorious opportunity to grab the equaliser that their performance deserved but, from an excellent Muirhead delivery, Aneke couldn’t hit the target with a close-range header.
Another decent opportunity fell to the hosts two minutes later after Aneke found Sow with a through ball - the striker took a touch but his low left-footed drive across goal was palmed away by a diving Marek Rodak.
On 35 minutes, the Dons’ leveller justly arrived and it was Muirhead who scored it. Aneke did well to win the ball on half-way, drive forward and play in the Scotsman, who then moved into the area and found the far corner of the net with a powerful left-footed strike. 1-1.
Micciche’s men kept their foot on the gas and before half-time they edged themselves in front. George Williams met a cross-field pass from Elliott Ward and headed the ball into the mix. Aneke collected and after creating space, fired a ball towards goal which was turned home by a lurking Pawlett. 2-1.
There was a brief scare to the scoreline before the break when Anthony Forde looked to be in but Nicholls was quick off his line to gather inside his six-yard box.
When the Dons returned after the interval, they were without the impressive Sow who was replaced by Ike Ugbo. The Chelsea loanee was involved early, almost latching onto a ball into the area which was, in the end, punched away by Rodak.
Urged on by the home support, Micciche’s men continued to push forward - determined to extend their lead rather than sit on a one-goal advantage. That boldness was rewarded on 57 minutes when, on a quick break forward, Pawlett slid in Muirhead who drilled home a terrific second goal from 20-yards out. 3-1.
Pawlett, who made it through his return to action unscathed, was then replaced by Brandon Thomas-Asante.
Rotherham enjoyed a spell of possession following the goal and it took an excellent interception from Scott Wootton to prevent them pulling one back almost immediately. On the counter, substitute Thomas-Asante tried his luck with a speculative drive from distance which Rodak saved.
The Millers continued to see a lot of the ball and it took a save out of the top drawer from Nicholls to keep them two goals behind on 71 minutes - the Dons stopper somehow kept Ajayi’s header out from point-blank range.
Rotherham pulled a goal back with a quarter of an hour remaining through substitute Jon Taylor, who nipped in to finish from close range. 3-2.
Straight from the re-start, Nicholls was called into action to keep out Newell before Michael Smith headed wide from the resulting corner. At the other end, Muirhead saw a goal-bound effort blocked after being set up by Upson.
Vaulks produced a save out of Nicholls with five minutes left to play before Newell sent one over the bar two minutes later. Aneke had a chance to re-establish the two-goal advantage in the final minute of regulation but dragged a shot wide.
Six minutes of stoppage time were awarded, but the Dons saw them out superbly to record a confidence-boosting victory in front of the home supporters.
Starting XI: Nicholls; Wootton, Ward, Lewington (c); Williams, Brittain (Cisse 73), Upson, Muirhead; Sow (Ugbo 46), Aneke, Pawlett (Thomas-Asante 59).
Unused subs: Sietsma, McGrandles, Nesbitt, Agard.
Goals: Muirhead (35, 58), Pawlett (42)
Attendance: 7,327 (559 away)
Referee: M Salisbury