An injury time winner from MK Dons’ Scott Wootton saw Dale cruelly denied anything from Saturday’s League 1 fixture, as the visitors left the Crown Oil Arena with all three points.
The game was fast paced and evenly matched throughout, especially in a superb end-to-end second half.
Conrad Logan made his first appearance since re-joining the club and saved a penalty from Ben Reeves with fifteen minutes remaining.
Dave Martin made some fine stops to deny Dale as Keith Hill’s side looked the more likely to take the spoils.
However, a free-kick in the final minute was flighted over everybody in the area, where Wootton was waiting to nod in the winner.
Logan was one of four changes from Tuesday’s defeat at Port Vale. Matthew Lund made his first appearance of the season after picking up an injury in pre-season, whilst Joe Thompson and Joe Bunney also made the starting eleven.
The opening stages were played at a frantic pace as both sides looked to take the game to their opponents.
The visitors were the first to draw a save, as Nicky Maynard diverted Joe Walsh’s header goal bound. Fortunately for the Dale the effort was straight at Logan. Minutes later Maynard worked himself some space in the area, but he sent his shot well over.
Lund had Dale’s first effort fifteen minutes in from a free-kick, curling it wide from 25 yards. Visitor’s Ed Upson saw a free-kick from a similar position saved by Logan, the Dale stopper palming clear of danger.
Keith Hill’s men were finding space around the MK Dons area but couldn’t quite find the killer pass that would result in a goal.
Lund had Dale’s best chance of the half when a clever move did result in a shooting opportunity. The midfielder shot from the edge of the area after a good lay-off, but it was straight at Dave Martin who parried away.
Dale finished the half strongly and opened their second half display in the same manner, forcing a number of corners in front of the Sandy Lane end.
Lund and Upson exchanged free-kicks again, this time the Dale man forced Martin into a good save, whilst Upson’s effort landed on the roof of the net.
With an hour played, MK Dons created their best chance to break the deadlock. Maynard, who had been quiet since the opening fifteen minutes, controlled a low ball from the left on the turn. He shot but Logan was out superbly to block the shot, before McNulty blocked the follow up.
Calvin Andrew replaced Joe Bunney for the final half an hour and was involved immediately, crossing dangerously before getting on the end of cross himself. However, Martin collected comfortably.
Donal McDermott replaced Thompson midway through the half, and he almost opened the scoring five minutes later after Andrew’s deep cross fell to him. The substitute struck it well but Martin was equal to it, although Dale were unfortunate that the ball didn’t fall to a blue shirt.
As the game entered the final fifteen minutes, Logan reminded Dale fans of what made him a firm fans favourite two seasons ago. Firstly he made a great reaction stop to deny Maynard’s first time effort from close range, then he pulled of a fine penalty save to deny Reeves.
McNulty was caught in possession and as he went to clear, the full back felled Reeves. Reeves stepped up and went down the middle, but Logan blocked with his legs to add the three penalty saves he made in his previous spell.
It gave Dale another lift for the closing stages, along with introduction of Steven Davies who joined the club on Wednesday.
Martin went some way to equalling Logan when he made a fine stop to deny Dale taking the lead with six minutes left. McDermott’s shot bounced up on to the head of Henderson who diverted goal wards, but Martin flung an arm up to turn the ball over the bar.
Jamie Allen then headed an Andy Cannon cross at Martin, whilst Logan made a fine double save at the other end. First he parried Reeves’ effort away, before getting straight up to deny Tshimanga from six yards out.
As the game entered four minutes of added time Andrew had a chance to win the game for Dale, but he turned Davies’ low cross just wide of the far post.
It looked like the game was heading for a stalemate, but with the last action of the match the visitors won the game. Reeves went down under a challenge from Cannon to win a controversial free-kick on the left hand side. Upson sent the cross over everybody to Wootton at the back post, where the centre back headed home to steal all three points late on.