A spirited MK Dons showing wasn’t rewarded at Stadium MK, as Liam Manning’s side fell to a 2-1 defeat to Sunderland.
The Black Cats led at half-time thanks to Ross Stewart’s close-range finish and then doubled their lead seven minutes into the second period through Elliot Embleton.
Manning’s men struck back and halved the deficit courtesy of Troy Parrott’s maiden MK Dons goal but they weren’t able to salvage a point, as the Black Cats hung on for an away victory.
MK Dons made one just change from their 3-3 draw with Bolton Wanderers, with Andrew Fisher making his season debut in goal. On the bench, there were spaces on the bench for Dean Lewington, Josh McEachran and Josh Martin, who missed out last weekend.
An energised Stadium MK provided a fitting soundtrack to a rather frantic first 10 minutes, where both sides looked to establish a foothold on the game.
Sunderland had several early corners and from one of those, Lynden Gooch stung the palms of the returning Fisher, who got down well to keep out the right-footed strike.
At the other end, a cross-field pass to Daniel Harvie led to a chance for Scott Twine but his volley was blocked. Harvie was involved again midway through the first half when he delivered a teasing low cross which was deflected just out of the reach of Mo Eisa and Troy Parrott.
His next cross did find its way to an MK Dons player, Tennai Watson, but, at the far post, the defender failed to hit the target with his first-time effort.
On the half-hour mark, Twine won a free-kick following a tricky run through the middle of the park. He took the set-piece, 35 yards from goal and, despite hitting it cleanly, saw the shot saved by Lee Burge.
Burge kept out another long-range effort by Twine, shortly before Fisher produced an excellent reaction save to deny Ross Stewart, who did well to connect with a diving header.
Twine went agonisingly close to scoring with five minutes remaining in the first half, beating Burge to a long pass forward but failing to find the target with his improvised effort.
Then, moments later, Sunderland took the lead through Stewart, who reacted quickest to prod home a loose ball inside the MK Dons area. 0-1.
MK Dons went for an instant response, with Jules dragging wide after Sunderland failed to properly deal with O’Riley’s cross into the box.
They started the second half well too but found themselves two goals down seven minutes in, after Embleton beat the Dons’ offside trap and lifted a shot over Fisher in front of the travelling Sunderland fans. 0-2.
In search of a reply, Parrott drove down the right and sent a ball in for Eisa but the striker was just beaten to it by Tom Flanagan. From the resulting corner, O’Riley connected with Darling but the latter’s header was saved.
The Dons kept the pressure on, though, and soon after reduced the deficit. Robson did well to win the ball on the half-way line and carry it to the edge of the box. He then found Parrott, who shifted inside and, after creating space for a shot, sent a curling effort into the far corner. 1-2.
Parrott then went agonisingly close to getting a foot to O’Riley’s low ball. He then teed up Eisa, who was forced to round the on-rushing Burge and try his luck from an impossible angle, from which he couldn’t find the net.
Parrot was proving to be the star of the show for MK Dons, however, and he almost found a second goal with an audacious chip that Burge just got fingertips too.
Manning made his first substitution with just over a quarter of an hour left to play, introducing McEachran from the bench in place of Eisa.
With 12 minutes to go, Sunderland thought they had restored their two-goal advantage but Pritchard’s strike hit the side netting. Then, a moment of controversy, as Twine was brought down with a clear run on goal – former Don Flanagan, though, escaped with just a booking.
Twine couldn’t trouble Burge from the resulting free-kick while he was denied by the goalkeeper minutes later, following a stunning run through the Sunderland defence and into the box.
Despite their spirited second-half showing, the Dons were threatened with a killer blow eight minutes from time, after Stewart fell in the area under pressure from Darling. Fisher, though, stepped up and denied Gooch from 12-yards.
That sparked the Dons and Stadium MK into life and Manning’s side went close through substitute Martin late on, who saw a fierce drive claimed by Burge.
Their best efforts weren’t to be rewarded in the end. A first defeat of the season but plenty for Manning to build on as he begins his rein as Head Coach at Stadium MK.
MK Dons: Fisher, Watson (Martin 87), Jules, O’Hora, Darling, O’Riley, Twine (Boateng 86), Eisa (McEachran 75), Robson, Parrott, Harvie.
Subs: Ravizzoli, Lewington, Brown, Baldwin.
Goal: Parrott (58)
Sunderland: Burge, Flanagan, Evans (Pritchard 61), Doyle, Embleton, Gooch, Stewart, Winchester, Cirkin (Wright 72), Neal, McGeady (O’Brien 72).
Subs: Patterson, Taylor, Diamond, Hawkes.
Goals: Stewart (42), Embleton (52)
Booked: Stewart, Evans, Flanagan.
Referee: J Bell
Attendance: 9,830 (2,930 away)