Liam Boyce’s 20th-minute strike proved the difference at the Pirelli Stadium as a dominant MK Dons performance wasn’t rewarded.
Boyce struck and won the game with the Brewers only real chance on goal, as Russell Martin’s men failed to make their 71 per cent possession count in Staffordshire.
The defeat – only the Dons’ second in eight matches – keeps them 19th in the Sky Bet League One table, three points adrift of the bottom three.
Boss Martin made one change from the starting XI which drew 1-1 with Coventry City, handing Carlton Morris his first start as an MK Dons player in place of David Kasumu. There was also an alteration on the bench, with Baily Cargill replacing Ben Reeves.
Burton started well but the Dons managed to deal with the early pressure – Lee Nicholls getting a strong hand to one low ball into the box. Martin’s men had an early opportunity of their own, a minute later - Rhys Healey testing Kieran O’Hara with a low, left-footed drive.
Nicholls was called into action again on five minutes to deal with an effort from Liam Boyce - the MK Dons number one got down well to palm away the fizzing strike. Joe Sbarra followed up soon after with a shot of his own, which he dragged well wide.
A well-worked move out from the back provided Healey which another chance to threaten an opener but the striker bent his effort past the far post. Less than a minute later he forced O’Hara into a save with a first-time shot from Callum Brittain’s cross.
Gilbey was the next to go close for MK Dons with a deflected 18-yard drive which flew just wide of the post. Joe Mason and Morris then had goal-bound attempts blocked as Martin’s side continued to threaten.
Burton then offered a reminder of their threat as Sbarra produced a diving save out of Nicholls from the edge of the D. The Dons responded through Mason, who saw a header kept out by O’Hara following a terrific long ball forward by Lewington.
It was the hosts, though, who would open the scoring 20 minutes in through Boyce, who collected a pass from Nathan Broadhead inside the area and fired a low shot past Nicholls. 1-0.
MK Dons pushed for an instant response and Healey soon saw a fierce strike blocked by a defender on its way through to goal. Morris also tried his luck but had his attempt deflected wide from 20 yards out.
Martin’s men went agonisingly close to an equaliser with 26 minutes on the clock as Conor McGrandles struck the crossbar direct from a free-kick. Gilbey’s follow-up was blocked.
Brittain then produced a moment of magic down the right, working his way deep into the Burton box, before seeing his strike turned behind. Mason then had a shot blocked as the home team continued to throw their bodies in the way of anything coming in from the Dons.
The home team did enough to see out the remainder of the first half, despite surrendering 71 per cent of the possession to their visitors, who went straight on the offensive at the start of the second half – Healey firing over after latching onto McGrandles’ through pass.
On 53 minutes, Morris shot wide with a shot on the turn, before the number 23 had an effort saved at point-blank range by O’Hara, after being picked out in the box by Brittain. He also directed one just wide from a Lewington corner on the hour.
Martin’s first change saw Sam Nombe come on to replace McGrandles. The striker, nor his teammates, were able to get on the end of a teasing Brittain cross which came in soon after the change.
Ben Gladwin then came on to join the attack in place of Houghton. He sent an early ball into the area, which Morris did well to meet – he couldn’t, though, direct his header on target. The number 17 also tried his luck from 25 yards out but sent his right-footed attempt over the crossbar.
The Dons kept huffing and puffing late but weren’t able to make their dominance pay with a late goal. A positive performance, though, for Martin and his side to take into their Stadium MK clash with Sunderland on Saturday.
MK Dons: Nicholls, Williams, Lewington (c), Walsh, Gilbey, Healey, McGrandles (Nombe 69), Mason, Morris, Houghton (Gladwin 80), Brittain.
Subs: Moore, Poole, Cargill, Moore-Taylor, Kasumu.
Booked: Walsh, Gilbey
Burton Albion: O’Hara, Brayford, Edwards, Buxton (c), Quinn (Templeton 89), Fraser (Nartey 74), Broadhead (Shaughnessy 46), Akins, Sbarra, O’Toole, Boyce.
Subs: Garratt, Sharman-Lowe, Sarkic, Hart.
Goal: Boyce (20)
Referee: M Coy