Southend United twice came from behind to hold MK Dons to a 2-2 draw at Roots Hall.
Russell Martin’s men opened the scoring through Joe Mason 13 minutes in but Jason Demetriou levelled the scores with a penalty before half-time.
Substitute Rhys Healey marked his return to action with a goal to restore MK Dons’ lead but the Shrimpers again equalised through Rob Kiernan, as the game ended all-square in Essex.
Boss Martin opted for two changes from the side which lost 3-1 at Gillingham last weekend, with Sam Nombe making his first start since suffering a knee injury in September. Ben Reeves also coming into the starting XI while was a place on the bench for Rhys Healey and Baily Cargill, who returned from suspension.
The Dons made a confident start, with Nombe flashing a shot into the side netting within the opening two minutes. Southend responded through Stephen Humphrys, who saw a right-footed drive blocked by Regan Poole.
It was Martin’s men, however, who would strike first and it was in-form Mason, who grabbed the goal.
Conor McGrandles started the move with a driving run through the middle and it was his ball, poked through a crowded box, that Mason met, four yards out, to convert his fourth goal in six games. 0-1.
Mason almost had a second, seven minutes later, but his shot was blocked. The Dons retained possession and it led to an opportunity for McGrandles, from a Dean Lewington cross – the Scotsman’s header was saved by Mark Oxley.
Humphrys threatened an equaliser for the hosts shortly after, firing just over the bar with a fierce 25-yard strike. Elvis Bwomono also went close to levelling but saw his fizzing effort drift wide of the right-hand upright.
Eventually, the Shrimpers did equalise and it came from the penalty spot after Nicholls collided with Humphrys inside the box. Demetriou took the kick and sent Nicholls the wrong way from 12 yards to level the scores. 1-1.
Nicholls was forced into a save two minutes after the re-start, getting down well to parry away Humphrys deflected shot. Humphrys went close again moments later, but Nicholls, again, kept out his attempt.
With eight minutes to play in the half, Southend threatened from distance once more – this time, Mark Milligan tried his luck but, again, found Nicholls in the way.
The Dons had a terrific opportunity to restore the lead three minutes later, after Lewington found Nombe free inside the Southend area. The striker got a shot away but saw his low effort saved by Oxley at his near post.
Neither side could amend the scores before half-time but the Dons went about doing so early in the second. They had a decent shout for a penalty within minutes of the re-start but referee Neil Hair wasn’t moved when Mason went down in the box.
Southend then had a gilt-edged chance to take the lead but Tom Hopper failed to convert from close-range, after his teammates had won possession deep in the MK Dons half.
That led to a spell of Shrimpers pressure, during which defender John White headed wide and Demetriou drilled just past the left post from 20 yards out.
Martin then went to the bench to make his first change of the afternoon and it saw the return of Healey after three months on the sidelines. He replaced Nombe in attack.
The striker made an instant impact, restoring the Dons’ lead just five minutes after coming on. Reeves created it with a low ball into the area which deflected into the path of Healey. He swivelled on the spot and saw his initial shot deflect back off him and then past Oxley and across the line. 1-2.
Their lead, however, lasted just two minutes as Southend equalised for a second time from a Sam Mantom corner – Kiernan the man to head in the leveller from eight yards out. 2-2.
Nicholls kept the scores as they were shortly after, courtesy of a terrific reflex save to deny Humphrys. Martin then made his second switch, replacing Reeves with Kasumu in midfield.
Kasumu almost provided an instant assist, getting in the way of a clearance and providing Mason with an opportunity to score his second. Mason managed to get the ball past Oxley but a covering defender was able to clear away.
The midfielder also had a cross-cum-shot which nearly caught out Oxley – the Southend keeper managing to get back, in the end, and keep the ball from crossing the line.
Neither side were able to grab a decisive late goal, meaning both remain in the bottom three in Sky Bet League One. For the Dons, their next opportunity to move closer to safety is on Sunday at home to Portsmouth.
MK Dons: Nicholls, Lewington (c), Walsh, Poole, Reeves (Kasumu 75), Gilbey, McGrandles, Mason, Houghton, Brittain, Nombe (Healey 58).
Subs: Moore, Williams, Cargill, Agard, Boateng.
Goals: Mason (13), Healey (64)
Booked: Houghton, Gilbey
Southend United: Oxley, Bwomono, Milligan, Humphrys (Kelman 82), Dieng (c), Hopper, McLaughlin (Goodship 90+2), Kiernan, Mantom, Demetriou, White.
Subs: Bishop, Cox, Hamilton, Hutchinson, Kinali.
Goals: Demetriou (pen 31), Kiernan (66)
Referee: N Hair
Attendance: 6,189 (380 away)