Rhys Healey scored for the fifth successive game to help MK Dons beat Bolton Wanderers 1-0 at Stadium MK.
In a tight affair between two teams battling for the points, it was Russell Martin’s men who secured all three – Healey’s 68th-minute strike proving the difference.
The Dons’ sixth home match out of their last seven kept them 18th in the Sky Bet League One but, crucially, moved them 13 points clear of the bottom three.
Boss Martin made two changes from the side which drew 1-1 at Lincoln City 11 days ago, with Louis Thompson and Ben Reeves coming in for Conor McGrandles and Sam Nombe – they were amongst the substitutes alongside the returning Callum Brittain and Ben Gladwin.
The Dons started confidently and the in-form Rhys Healey forced an early save from Remi Matthews – the Bolton stopper doing well to palm away the striker’s fierce left-footed strike.
Healey almost found himself in again on nine minutes but Alex Gilbey’s through pass was intercepted by Aristote Nsiala.
Bolton threatened for the first time with 11 minutes on the clock when Ali Crawford delivered in a free-kick. It was inadvertently flicked on by Regan Poole but fortunately Lee Nicholls was there to make the save.
The Dons responded by almost taking the lead through Louis Thompson, whose bending right-footed shot fell just wide of the post from the edge of the D. Martin’s men then won a corner, from which Healey headed off target.
They had a great opportunity to open the scoring with six minutes to play in the half but, following a mazy run into the box, and subsequent cross, by Gilbey, Morris saw his effort blocked by a Bolton defender.
Crawford had one final chance, before the half, for the visitors – a looping effort which was comfortable for Nicholls in the centre of his goal. Morris then tried his luck for the Dons, but saw his low drive swallowed up by Matthews.
The Dons won themselves a free-kick a few minutes into the second half but Jordan Moore-Taylor’s header, from Ben Reeves’ delivery, was claimed by the Bolton goalkeeper. From another set piece, this time a corner, Gilbey fired wide.
With 59 minutes played, Dennis Politic blazed way off target from distance. Daryl Murphy then went close with a left-footed half-volley which he dragged just wide of the post.
At the other end, Houghton drilled over with an ambitious long-range attempt. Boss Martin then made his first change of the afternoon, introducing Sam Nombe in place of Reeves. Within a minute, his side were in front.
Breaking forward quickly from the back, Gilbey carried the Dons deep into the Bolton half before finding Healey to his left. The number 10 took a heavy touch into the area but was still able to get a shot away – a shot which found its way past Matthews and into the net. 1-0.
Bolton threatened an equaliser with six minutes to play but Politic’s low shot to the near post was saved well by Nicholls. Gilbey then went agonisingly close to sealing the win, but had his shot saved by the legs of Matthews.
Healey should have had a second late in stoppage time, but saw his goal-bound effort blocked by a defender after he rounded the goalkeeper. It didn’t matter, however, as the Dons held on to secure another crucial home win.
MK Dons: Nicholls, Williams, Lewington (c), Poole, Reeves (Nombe 67), Gilbey, Healey, Moore-Taylor, Thompson (McGrandles 76), Morris (Gladwin 89), Houghton.
Subs: Fisher, Walsh, Gladwin, Brittain, Kasumu.
Goal: Healey (68)
Bolton Wanderers: Matthews, Lowe (c), Hobbs, L Murphy, D Murphy, Crawford (Emmanuel 73), Fleming, Mellis (Graham 56), Hamilton (Dodoo 78), Politic, Nsiala.
Subs: Alexander, Bunney, Delaney, O’Grady.
Referee: O Yates
Attendance: 8,539 (766 away)