Lynden Gooch’s stunning late strike saw Sunderland beat MK Dons 1-0 at Stadium MK and inflict a first home defeat in four on Russell Martin’s men.
It was a game of two halves between two in-form sides and while the Dons edged the first period, it was Sunderland who controlled the second and they won the match with 11 minutes to play thanks to an excellent curling finish from Gooch.
Defeat sees the Dons drop down to 20th in the Sky Bet League One table but they still remain three points clear of the bottom three.
Boss Martin had originally named an unchanged starting XI but was forced into an alteration before kick-off, with David Kasumu having to come into the side to replace Alex Gilbey. Baily Cargill took his place on the bench, alongside new signing Louis Thompson.
An entertaining start to the bench saw Lee Nicholls forced to gather a long throw into the area by Luke O’Nien, and Callum Brittain work his way into the Sunderland box only to be dispossessed at the crucial moment.
The first real shot of the match arrived on seven minutes from the right boot of Chris Maguire, who fired over from 25-yards out. The visitors went even closer five minutes later, with Alim Ozturk failing to convert from close-range after O’Nien’s header made it across the face of the MK Dons goal.
At the other end, Conor McGrandles had a shot blocked behind for a corner after being picked out by Brittain.
Their best chance of the opening first 23 minutes came, though, after Morris latched onto a McGrandles through pass. He picked out Rhys Healey, who carried the ball deep into the box before having a right-footed shot deflected wide of the post by Jon McLaughlin.
Healey was at it again, on the half-hour, but this time he couldn’t get this shot through a crowd of Sunderland shirts in the box. Neither could Joe Mason, with a volley, moments later.
Kasumu also had an attempt blocked with two minutes remaining in the half, following an extended spell of possession from the Dons inside the Sunderland half.
The scores remained goalless through to the half but the visitors went about changing that early in the second period and it took a last-ditch block to prevent O’Nien from doing so from a low cross to the back post.
Maguire then fired over while Morris had the Dons’ first chance of the second half with a shot on the turn which was blocked.
Sunderland, however, should have broken the deadlock on 50 minutes but goal-line blocks from Brittain and then Williams denied both Lynden Gooch and Wyke respectively. O’Nien drilled wide of the target from the resulting corner.
The Dons responded well and started to wrestle back control of the contest. Their visitors, though, came forward once again and it took a fantastic diving save from Nicholls to keep out Maguire’s goal-bound free-kick shortly before the hour.
On 63 minutes, Healey tested McLaughlin for the first time since the re-start – his first-time curling effort was a comfortable one for the Sunderland stopper. Martin then made his first substitution of the game – replacing Kasumu with debutant Louis Thompson in midfield.
Seconds after his introduction, Sunderland threatened again with O’Nien heading into the side netting from a deep Maguire free-kick. Moments later, at the other end, Dean Lewington fired just wide with a fierce left-footed strike.
Thompson was involved at the opposite end six minute later but he wasn’t able to navigate his shot past Sunderland defenders gathering on the edge of the box. His tackle shortly after led to another attack, which resulted in McLaughlin gathering a low cross just ahead of Healey.
Ben Gladwin was the Dons’ second arrival from the bench – he came on with 17 minutes to play in place of McGrandles. One of Sunderland’s substitutes, Kyle Lafferty, almost had an instant impact for the visitors, but he looped a shot over from the edge of the D.
With their next attempt, the Black Cats took the lead and it was Gooch that did so – curling home an unstoppable strike from 25-yards out and leaving little room for Nicholls to keep it out. 0-1.
Martin went straight to his bench and brought Sam Nombe on to replace Morris in attack – his final roll of the dice. His side went close soon after but Walsh wasn’t able to connect with Lewington’s in-swinging corner.
Sunderland should have doubled their lead with seven minutes to play but an un-marked Ozturk somehow failed to hit the target with a diving header, eight yards from goal.
Four minutes were added on at the end of regulation and stoppage time stared with successive MK Dons corners which Sunderland dealt with.
Martin's men had several other set pieces but weren't able to make them count - Williams with the last chance, sending a header wide of the left upright.
MK Dons: Nicholls, Williams, Lewington (c), Walsh, Healey, McGrandles (Gladwin 73), Mason, Morris (Nombe 81), Houghton, Brittain, Kasumu (Thompson 64).
Subs: Moore, Poole, Cargill, Moore-Taylor.
Booked: Kasumu, Healey
Sunderland: J McLaughlin, Lynch, Willis, Ozturk, Power (c), Maguire, Wyke (Lafferty 77), Gooch, O’Nien, Dobson, Hume.
Subs: Burge, C McLaughlin, McNulty, Flanagan, Watmore, Leadbitter.
Goal: Gooch (79)
Booked: Dobson, Ozturk, Maguire
Referee: B Toner
Attendance: 13,327 (4,436 away)