Kieran Agard scored his 100th career goal but it wasn’t enough as MK Dons were beaten 2-1 by Tranmere Rovers at Prenton Park.
David Perkins opened the scoring for the home side and while the Dons levelled things up just two minutes later courtesy of Agard's glancing header, Rovers went on to win the match in the second half through a Connor Jennings goal.
It’s a result which sees Paul Tisdale’s men drop out of the top three in Sky Bet League Two with four games left to play. The Dons are now one point adrift of third-placed Mansfield Town and a further point behind Bury, in second.
Boss Tisdale made two changes to his starting XI, one of which was enforced. Joe Walsh was unavailable due to injury and was replaced by Ousseynou Cissé. The other change saw Chuks Aneke come in for David Wheeler. There were places amongst the substitutes for both David Kasumu and Dylan Asonganyi.
Tranmere started strong and sent two early balls into the box. One flew over the heads of everyone in the area and the second was claimed by Lee Nicholls.
MK Dons then went up the other end of the pitch and earned a corner through Agard. The corner was delivered in by Conor McGrandles and met by Russell Martin, whose header was blocked.
On seven minutes, Dean Lewington whipped a cross deep into the area. It looked to be finding the head of Aneke but Rovers goalkeeper Scott Davies flew out and claimed ahead of the Dons striker.
It was Tranmere’s Sky Bet League Two Player of the Season who would produce the first shot of the game, 10 minutes in. He raced onto a Perkins through ball but was denied by Nicholls, diving to his right.
Ben Pringle had a sight of goal three minutes later but was quickly closed down and eventually saw his shot blocked by Martin. Norwood then had the ball in the net for the hosts but play was called back for a foul on Lewington.
MK Dons then went close through Aneke, who was just beaten to a Jake Hesketh cross by Liam Ridehalgh. Agard, 20-yards out, sent a curling left-footed shot wide of the target two minutes later.
Midway through the first half, Houghton got himself in the way of a powerful drive from Connor Jennings which looked as if it would have threatened Nicholls had it got through.
Aneke broke forward shortly after, following some good work from McGrandles, and he carried a ball into the Rovers penalty box before blazing wide of the target. At the other end, Nicholls produced an excellent reaction save to keep out Norwood’s low try.
Rovers maintained the pressure thereafter and took the lead on the half-hour mark through Perkins, who drilled a low shot through a crowd and past Nicholls after a corner was cleared only as far as where he was lurking on the edge of the D. 1-0.
Their lead, though, would last less than two minutes as the Dons pulled themselves level with their next attack.
McGrandles and Hesketh created it down the right, with the latter eventually sending a ball into the mix. It landed perfectly on the head of an unmarked Agard, who calmly glanced home his 22nd goal of the campaign and his 100th career strike. 1-1.
As the half wound to a close, Rovers started to put the Dons under pressure. Nicholls was forced off his line to punch away a ball into the area moments before a low drive from Ollie Banks was sent straight down the Dons goalkeeper’s throat.
It was Hesketh, though, who would have the final opportunity of the game. He created space for a shot on the edge of the Tranmere area but sent his fierce strike straight at Davies, who saved.
An early second-half chance fell the way of Norwood on 47 minutes but his effort was saved by Nicholls. Norwood found himself in action soon after but he was denied by a strong tackle from McGrandles.
MK Dons ventured forward for their first real attack of the second half on 55 minutes. Aneke beat his man down the right but Agard wasn’t able to make anything of his striker partner’s low cross.
Four minutes later, Lewington was called into action, getting a crucial header to a deep cross to prevent Jennings from a simple headed finish. Four minutes after that, Tranmere restored their lead - Jennings the goalscorer for the hosts, heading in at the far post from a Pringle cross. 2-1.
Tisdale soon made his first change - David Wheeler on for Ryan Harley. His second followed - Stephen Walker replacing Hesketh.
In between those substitutions, Houghton prevented Norwood doubling the lead with a stunning - and extremely brave - block. The midfielder managed to get his face in the way of the sweetly-struck drive despite lying on the floor.
On 79 minutes, Wheeler got himself into the penalty area but couldn’t link up with Agard, who was tightly marked. Moments later, Wheeler climbed well to flick on a long forward pass but Agard was beaten to the ball by Davies.
Tisdale's side huffed and puffed in the closing stages but weren't able to truly threaten the Rovers defence. On to the next one then - a trip to Notts County on Good Friday, with the Dons' fate still in their hands.
Starting XI: Nicholls; Brittain, Martin, Houghton, Lewington (c); McGrandles, Cissé, Harley (Wheeler 69); Hesketh (Walker 78); Agard, Aneke.
Unused subs: Moore, Kasumu, Watson, D’Ath, Asonganyi.
Goal: Agard (32)
Booked: Agard, Martin, Lewington, Aneke
Referee: J Brooks
Attendance: 8,357 (347 away)