Bradley Johnson came off the bench to salvage a point for MK Dons against Burton Albion at Stadium MK.
The Dons looked to be heading for a third straight league defeat after Victor Adeboyejo’s first-half penalty but substitute Johnson headed home an equaliser from Dawson Devoy’s corner with eight minutes to play.
A point does neither side any favours in their bid to get out of the bottom four in Sky Bet League One, though the Dons do move a point closer to 20th place as a result of scores elsewhere.
MK Dons made one change from last weekend's Emirates FA Cup tie, with Conor Grant replacing Bradley Johnson in midfield. Dean Lewington missed out through injury which kept him sidelined through last week’s games, meaning Warren O'Hora captained the side.
Manning’s men made a positive start, controlling possession early on. They worked the ball deep into Burton territory for the first time with seven minutes played but Darragh Burns’ low cross for Mo Eisa was intercepted.
So was Daniel Harvie’s cross for Eisa from the opposite flank moments later – this one resulted in three straight corners for the Dons, who forced a save out of Ben Garratt from the latter courtesy of Dawson Devoy’s 20-yard strike.
Jamie Cumming was called into the action for the first time shortly after, diving down to his left to palm Bobby Kamwa’s teasing in-swinging cross around his post. From the resulting corner, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson fired well wide.
Burton threatened again from a long throw on 12 minutes but Sam Hughes’ header produced a routine save out of Cumming. Hughes was involved at the opposite end shortly after, throwing himself in the way of Conor Grant’s fierce drive.
With 14 minutes played, Burns worked his way into the penalty area but saw his low, left-footed shot deflect wide of the target off a Burton defender. The Dons weren’t able to make the resulting corner.
Jack Tucker made a crucial block to prevent Kamwa a shot on goal at the quarter-hour mark. Cumming then saved from Tyler Onyanego’s long-range attempt before Eisa went close with at the end opposite end with a curling right-footed try.
The end-to-end flow of the game continued as, next, Tucker was forced to get himself in the way of Deji Oshilaja’s shot on the turn.
Momentum then swung in favour of the visitors when Corrie Ndaba went down in the area under a challenge from Daniel Harvie. Referee Lee Swabey pointed straight to the penalty spot and Adeboyejo converted to give his side the lead. 0-1.
In response, MK Dons broke forward with Nathan Holland but, after carrying the ball deep into Burton territory, he was dispossessed. Shortly after, Holland’s opposite winger, Burns, was forced off with an injury and replaced by Louie Barry.
Barry was involved in starting a counter attack which saw Garratt deny Eisa at point-blank range from Harvie’s low cross. A sliding tackle then prevented Watson from having a chance on goal, after he had skipped past his man in the area.
In first-half stoppage time, Holland drove into the box teed up Grant but his effort on goal was diverted wide by a Burton defender. Holland was involved in the first action of the second half, firing in a cross which was blocked at the near post.
Down the opposite flank, Watson’s through pass for Barry almost set the winger free inside the area but a covering defender was quickly across to intercept. The Brewers were also able to cut out a Devoy ball over the top for Eisa, which would had the striker one-on-one.
Eisa was almost in again on 55 minutes but he was unfairly brought down Ndaba, who was booked for his tackle on the striker. That gave MK Dons a free-kick on the edge of the D but Eisa wasn’t able to keep his effort from sailing over the crossbar.
The Dons were inside the Burton box again on the hour but Watson’s cross went through untouched. His team recycled possession and created a shooting opportunity for Barry, who dragged a shot wide from 18 yards out.
Referee Lee Swabey, who made the big call in the first half to award the penalty, was in the thick of the action with 66 minutes played when, moments after booking Onyanego, opted not to show the midfielder a second yellow card for a similarly poor, late tackle. He was promptly withdrawn by substitution.
The Dons, frustrated by the decision, seemed to use the injustice as fuel as they went about finding an equaliser. They thought they found one with 71 minutes on the block but Barry, after collecting Holland’s pass, saw his 10-yard shot blocked on its way to goal.
Holland also had an attempt blocked on its way through to the target, moments before Manning introduced Will Grigg off the bench in place of Grant. Grigg went close almost immediately, but headed just wide from Watson’s cross.
Bradley Johnson came off the bench with 10 minutes to play as MK Dons made their final sub and he made an instant impact – heading home from Devoy’s corner just two minutes into his appearance to level the scores. 1-1.
The Dons went back in search of another and almost saw Holland claim it but his shot was blocked from Eisa’s pull-back. Holland then tried to turn provider with a low cross for Eisa which was stabbed clear by a Burton man.
With a minute to play, Barry swung in a ball for Eisa but he couldn’t get his acrobatic attempt on target. Barry went for glory himself in the second minute of stoppage time but, after his solo run across the ball, his left-footed shot rose over the crossbar.
It was the Dons who had the momentum heading into the closing stages but they weren’t able to make it count, despite two late corners – including one with 97 minutes on the clock. A point apiece.
MK Dons: Cumming, Watson, Tucker, O’Hora, McEachran (Johnson 80), Eisa, Holland, Grant (Grigg 73), Burns (Barry 36), Harvie, Devoy.
Subs: Ravizzoli, Robson, Lawrence, Jules.
Goal: Johnson (82)
Burton Albion: Garratt, Brayford, Borthwick-Jackson, Oshilaja, Hughes, Onyango, Adeboyejo, Ndaba, Taylor, Hamer, Kamwa.
Subs: Sinisalo, Butcher, Keillor-Dunn, Smith, Lakin, Gilligan, Dodoo.
Goal: Adeboyejo (pen 29)
Booked: Onyanego, Garratt
Referee: L Swabey
Attendance: 6,073 (250 away)