Port Vale were forced to settle for a draw away to promotion-chasing MK Dons on Monday afternoon, despite Tom Conlon putting John Askey's men into the lead shortly after the restart with an expertly taken goal.
David Wheeler was the man to rescue a point for the hosts with a 53rd-minute strike, but the Valiants had the woodwork to thank with a quarter of an hour remaining as Chuks Aneke squandered an opportunity to seal victory for the Dons.
It was the Valiants who started on the front foot and they had an opportunity to take the lead after just four minutes as Conlon drilled a low cross into the box. Luke Hannant showed great awareness to tee up Cristian Montano, but his powerful strike from 12 yards was blocked by Dean Lewington.
Scott Brown was called into action for the first time with 12 minutes played as Ryan Harley sent an effort towards goal from range after finding a yard of space in a central position, but the Vale goalkeeper reacted well to acrobatically tip it over the bar.
MK Dons began to dictate proceedings by having the majority of possession, but the away back line was organised enough to nullify the threat. Harley was at the heart of the action again on 20 minutes as he fizzed a dangerous ball across the face of the box, but it just evaded the white shirts looking to get on the end of it.
Referee Alan Young was the centre of attention on 38 minutes as he awarded a controversial penalty against Mitch Clark for a high foot as he went to clear. To Vale’s relief, however, Brown kept out Kieran Agard’s spot kick with a brilliant save before reacting to somehow divert his follow-up around the post with an outstretched hand.
It took just three minutes of the second half for the deadlock to be broken, and it fell Vale’s way as Conlon found the net with a pinpoint strike. The midfielder danced his way past two MK Dons defenders before curling an effort into the top corner via the underside of the crossbar before wheeling away in celebration.
Paul Tisdale was desperate for a response from his side after they conceded, and he got just that as Wheeler prodded home an equaliser with 53 minutes played. Jake Hesketh was the architect with a low cross from the right flank, giving Wheeler the simple task of finishing the move off at the far post.
With 62 minutes on the clock, the Valiants registered another shot on target as Hannant recycled a deep cross from David Worrall. He managed to shift the ball onto his left foot before taking aim, but Lee Nicholls made a comfortable save to deny him.
MK Dons were presented with a clear-cut opportunity after 76 minutes as Aneke got himself into a one-on-one with Brown, but following a heavy touch, he was only able to hit his effort against the foot of the post and Vale were allowed to breathe a sigh of relief. Montano then went close up the other end, but he dragged one wide from inside the area.
That proved to be the final meaningful piece of action as both teams had to settle for a draw, but it was the away supporters who were more upbeat with the result as they watched the players battle to defend their position in a tense period of seven minutes stoppage time.
MK Dons: Lee Nicholls, Dean Lewington ©, Ousseynou Cissé, Jake Hesketh (George Williams 77’), Kieran Agard (Chuks Aneke 57’), Russell Martin, Conor McGrandles, David Wheeler, Jordan Houghton, Callum Brittain, Ryan Harley (Robbie Simpson 78’).
Unused Substitutes: Stuart Moore, Ryan Watson, Lawson D’Ath, Stephen Walker.
Port Vale: Scott Brown, Cristian Montano (Theo Vassell 90'), Luke Joyce, Leon Legge ©, David Worrall, Luke Hannant (Antony Kay 65’), Adam Crookes, Nathan Smith, Danny Elliott (Tom Pope 74’), Tom Conlon, Mitch Clark.
Unused Substitutes: Sam Hornby, Connell Rawlinson, Ben Whitfield, Mike Calveley.
Attendance: 8,386 (334 Vale).