MK Dons ended their 12-game winless run courtesy of a well-deserved 1-0 victory over Oxford United at Stadium MK.
Joe Mason’s excellent second-half strike – his third goal in four games – proved to be the difference, as Russell Martin secured his first league win as manager.
It’s a result which sees the Dons move level on points with 20th place in Sky Bet League One, with a trip to Gillingham on deck next weekend.
Boss Martin named an unchanged side from the one that drew 1-1 with Doncaster Rovers last weekend. Regan Poole was drafted in late at the Keepmoat Stadium to replace centre-back in place of Jordan Moore-Taylor, who missed out once again because of a knee issue.
On the bench, there was a return for Rhys Healey – his first appearance in the squad since 14 September. He took the place of fellow striker Sam Nombe, who was sidelined through illness.
Oxford won themselves a corner after just a minute of game action but their delivery from the left was dealt with by Martin’s men.
The Dons threatened for the first time three minutes later. After some nice play down the left, Gilbey got to the by-line, but saw his low cross for Joe Mason intercepted.
A similar move down the right almost led to the first goal but Hiram Boateng’s pass for Agard was diverted away from the awaiting striker via the slightest of touches from a U’s defender.
The chances kept coming for the hosts, with Mason the next to try his luck. A cross-field pass led to the opportunity, which the Dons number 20 bent wide of the left-hand post from the edge of the area.
Mason went close again on 24 minutes, letting a pass from Gilbey roll across his body 20 yards from goal before firing a right-footed drive which drifted just a yard or two wide. Agard then saw a right-footed attempt of his own blocked, after being teed up by Conor McGrandles inside the box.
With five minutes to play, the Dons won themselves a corner from which Gilbey volleyed over. They had another chance late in the half – a free-kick following a foul on McGrandles five yards from the edge of the area. Lewington took it, but couldn’t keep his effort down.
Martin’s men returned for the second half just as bright, with Lewington sending an early cross into the box – one which was headed away by Alex Gorrin just in front of McGrandles.
It took them, though, until the hour mark to take a deserved lead. Boateng had an curling effort deflected into the path of Mason, who took a touch away from a U’s defender inside the box before lashing a 12-yard shot into the top right-hand corner of Archer’s net. 1-0.
Oxford responded and put the Dons under immediate pressure deep inside their own half. Martin’s men though were holding firm, although there were plenty of nervy moments – including several penalty appeals.
Martin made his first substitution with 20 minutes left to play – Reeves replacing Boateng in midfield. One of Oxford’s subs, Shandon Baptiste, soon went close with a low drive which was blocked well by Houghton.
Some terrific skill and composure from McGrandles prevented another U’s attack and almost created a second goal for the Dons – however, Gilbey’s eventual drive drifted wide.
Bowery was Martin’s second substitution. He came on with seven minutes to play in the spot of Agard. Kasumu soon followed, with minutes left on the clock.
The Stadium MK crowd was right behind the Dons has they fought tooth and nail to hold onto their lead.
They had to survive two stoppage-time corners as well as several direct balls into the box – and they did, handing Russell Martin his first league victory as MK Dons manager and the side’s first since 14 September.
MK Dons: Nicholls, Lewington (c), Walsh, Poole, Gilbey, Agard (Bowery 83), McGrandles (Kasumu 90), Mason, Houghton, Brittain, Boateng (Reeves 71).
Subs: Moore, Healey, Dickenson, Sorinola.
Goal: Mason (59)
Booked: Houghton, Nicholls, Lewington, Reeves
Oxford United: Archer, Cadden, Ruffels, Dickie, Gorrin, Hall (Mackie 59), Brannagan (Agyei 80), Taylor, Fosu, Mousinho (c), Sykes (Baptiste 64).
Subs: Stevens, Moore, Long, Jones.
Booked: Dickie, Fosu, Gorrin
Referee: T Kettle
Attendance: 10,031 (2,850 away)