Rhys Healey scored a stoppage-time penalty as MK Dons came from behind to beat Rochdale at Stadium MK.
Russell Martin’s men trailed to Ian Henderson’s early close-range finish but levelled through a Carlton Morris header five minutes into the second half.
The game appeared to be heading for a draw until Charles Breakspear awarded the Dons penalty three minutes into stoppage time. Healey stepped up and converted in front of the Cowshed, sending his side six points clear of the bottom three in Sky Bet League One.
Boss Martin welcomed Alex Gilbey back to the starting XI after he missed the defeat to Sunderland due to a knee injury. He replaced Joe Mason who, himself, was sidelined through injury, as was Conor McGrandles who saw his spot taken by Louis Thompson. The other change saw Jordan Moore-Taylor come in for Joe Walsh at the back.
The Dons started well, with a move down the right leading to a chance for Callum Brittain, who curled over from the edge of the area. Rochdale went closer, though, five minutes later – forward Tyler Smith firing into the side netting after beating the offside trap.
A quick counter attack from Dale provided an opportunity for Henderson on the quarter-hour mark but his effort was deflected wide off George Williams. From the resulting corner, the visitors broke the deadlock – Henderson prodding home at close-range from Eoghan O’Connell’s flick on. 0-1.
Martin’s men had an opportunity to respond four minutes later from a free-kick, after Healey was brought down five yards from the edge of the box. Morris took the set-piece and saw his effort blocked by the wall.
Morris was involved again on 25 minutes, driving down the left before teeing up Alex Gilbey, who took a heavy touch inside the area. Rochdale fired back with Ollie Rathbone trying his luck from range – Nicholls made the save.
Nicholls’ opposite number, Lynch, was called into action for the first time to keep out Callum Brittain’s low drive. Lynch claimed the parry before Gilbey could pounce. Healey then had the final chance of the first half, curling a shot into the arms of Lynch from 25 yards.
Martin made a substitution at the break, replacing Kasumu with Sam Nombe and the striker had a positive impact, as the Dons made a strong start to the half.
They were rewarded for that positive beginning with a goal four minutes in. Rochdale did well to deal with three corners sent into the box but the fourth, delivered in by Houghton, resulted in Morris flicking a header past Lynch – his second goal for the Dons. 1-1.
Healey went close to putting his side ahead on the hour after latching onto Nicholls' long ball forward. He showed great skill to create room for a shot but had his effort deflected wide of the goal.
Rochdale soon went close at the other end with Stephen Dooley dragging a low shot just wide of the left-hand upright before Martin made his second change of the evening – Ben Gladwin on for Thompson, who had run himself into the ground in his first start for the Dons.
On 71 minutes, Morris found the run of Nombe with a through ball but the striker had his curling effort gathered by Lynch. Shortly after, Brittain crashed a strike against the stantion behind the goal, after missing the right-hand corner by an inch.
Gilbey also tried his luck from distance, but his attempt was saved by Lynch. He went for goal again moments later but couldn’t find a way past the Dale stopper for a second time.
Lynch produced another stop with 12 minutes to play, this time keeping out Healey’s bending strike. At the other end, Nicholls got behind a drive from Rathbone and made the save.
The Dons had a great opportunity with 82 minutes on the clock after Lynch palmed a Nombe ball into the mix. Both Healey and Morris had swipes but neither could find enough contact to trouble the goal.
Healey had another fantastic chance moments later after latching onto a superb through ball from Gladwin. The striker took a touch inside the area but failed to hit the target with his effort.
The game appeared to be heading for a draw until the third minute of stoppage time when Healey was brought down in the box. Referee Charles Breakspear pointed straight to the spot and that provided the MK Dons number 10 with one final opportunity to win the match – which he did, sending his spot kick straight down the middle. 2-1.
MK Dons: Nicholls, Williams, Lewington (c), Gilbey, Healey (Walsh 90+6), Moore-Taylor, Thompson (Gladwin 68), Morris, Houghton, Brittain, Kasumu (Nombe 46).
Subs: Moore, Poole, Agard, Asonganyi.
Booked: Kasumu, Thompson, Brittain
Goals: Morris (49), Healey (90+3)
Rochdale: Lynch, Norrington-Davies, McNulty (McShane 77), O’Connell, Dooley, Williams, Smith (Wilbraham 59), Keohane, Rathbone, Ryan (Done 70), Henderson (c).
Subs: Lillis, McLaughlin, Morley, Matheson.
Goal: Henderson (16)
Referee: C Breakspear
Attendance: 6,393 (156 away)