A first-half penalty from John Akinde and a late Bruno Andrade strike saw MK Dons beaten 2-0 by Lincoln City at Stadium MK.
Akinde’s spot-kick was all that separated the sides heading into stoppage time and Paul Tisdale’s men went agonisingly close to equalising with a Chuks Aneke header which was saved at point-blank range.
Moments later, Andrade scored and condemned the Dons to only their second defeat in 10 games - a loss which sees them drop a place in the Sky Bet League Two table but retain an automatic-promotion spot.
Boss Tisdale named an unchanged starting XI with Alex Gilbey still sidelined through an ankle injury sustained during the 2-0 win over Yeovil Town. There was one alteration to the squad, however, as David Kasumu replaced an injured Robbie Simpson amongst the substitutes.
The game started at a frantic pace as both teams looked to stamp their authority. Conor McGrandles delivered an early cross into the box which was met by David Wheeler at the far post. Kieran Agard collected the ball but was quickly dispossessed.
Lincoln then went up the other end of the pitch and it took an excellent block tackle from Russell Martin to prevent Shay McCartan bursting through, one-on-one with Lee Nicholls.
It was MK Dons who produced the first shot on target. Eight minutes in, Agard teed up Jordan Houghton 25-yards from goal and his low drive produced a diving save out of Matt Gilks.
Jake Hesketh then tested Lincoln from range, but saw his left-footed try blocked by a sliding Michael Bostwick. Martin headed wide from the resulting Dean Lewington corner.
Lincoln offered their first threat on goal in the 19th minute as Jason Shackell met a free-kick delivered in from the right. His header had beaten Nicholls but McGrandles raced back in time to hook the ball clear.
Bruno Andrade then drilled wide from a free-kick, following a foul on John Akinde which earned Joe Walsh a yellow card.
The Dons had a great opportunity to take the lead soon after the half-hour mark but Gilks brilliantly denied Wheeler after he had raced onto McGrandles’ through pass in the area. Wheeler’s touch was deft but it looked to have done enough to beat Gilks, however his big left arm managed to keep it out.
Two minutes later, Lincoln were handed an even better chance to open the scoring - and they took advantage. Referee Kevin Johnson adjudged Ryan Harley’s slide tackle on McCartan to be worthy of a penalty. Akinde stepped up for the Imps and duly converted to hand them the lead. 0-1.
Tisdale’s men looked to respond right away and earned a corner. They managed to get several heads to the ball in but weren’t able to fashion a chance on goal. Martin then sent a ball into the area which Wheeler got a touch too, but Gilks was able to gather the heavy touch.
The Imps then went close to doubling their advantage through McCartan whose near-post effort from Harry Anderson’s cutback was deflected behind by a combination of Dons defenders.
MK Dons won themselves a late corner kick following some good work by Callum Brittain down the right. They weren’t through, able to create a shooting opportunity and the half ended with Lincoln in the ascendancy.
Tisdale’s side returned for the second period without a change to their name but they conceded an early free-kick from which Shackell had an effort blocked by Lewington.
They then tried to respond through Hesketh, who blasted over with a left-footed attempt from the edge of the D moments before Akinde fired inches wide for Lincoln at the other end of the pitch.
Nicholls sent Brittain away from the re-start. The Dons worked the ball forward but Hesketh’s eventual cross was over the head of Wheeler and Harley.
Tisdale introduced Chuks Aneke from the bench with nine minutes played in the half. He was involved right away, sending a left-footed curler into the arms of Gilks from distance.
Aneke then drew a foul from Michal Bostwick inside the D. The Dons wanted a red but the Imps defender was only shown a yellow. Aneke took the free-kick himself but lifted his shot over the bar.
Cisse was soon brought on by Tisdale as MK Dons continued to push for an equaliser. They earned themselves several corners before the 70 minute mark - from one of those, Aneke powered a header wide of the post.
Aneke’s strike partner Agard then saw a left-footed drive blocked after he was found by the MK Dons number 10 in the area.
The Dons’ tails were up and Stephen Walker was soon thrown into the mix to re-inforce that attacking intent. Lincoln, though, were still offering a threat of their own and Andrade saw a deflected low shot skim the outside of the post on 79 minutes.
With five minutes to play, Aneke saw a volley blocked on the edge of the area. Walker was causing problems down the left but nobody could connect with his cross on 87 minutes.
Five minutes of stoppage time play was awarded and in the second of those Aneke saw a header somehow saved at point-blank range by Gilks.
Lincoln countered from the resulting corner and Andrade finished past Nicholls to secure the win for the visitors, who look set to play League One football next season. 0-2.
Despite the defeat, the Dons’ chances of joining them in the third tier remain very much alive with five games to go.
Starting XI: Nicholls; Brittain, Martin, Walsh, Lewington (c) (Cisse 66); McGrandles, Houghton (Walker 75), Harley; Wheeler (Aneke 55), Agard, Hesketh.
Unused subs: Moore, Kasumu, Watson, D’Ath.
Booked: Walsh, McGrandles, Hesketh
Referee: K Johnson
Attendance: 15,851 (5,556 away)