A poor second-half showing from MK Dons threw open the doors for Crewe Alexandra to turnaround a deficit to win a comfortable 3-1 at Mornflake Stadium on Saturday.
Ahead and cruising after just eight minutes through Jonathan Leko’s third goal of the season, Dons looked as though the points were in the bag at the interval such was Crewe’s poor opening 45 minutes.
But rejuvenated at the break, and buoyed by the introduction of Shilow Tracey, Crewe dominated the game as Dons fell apart. Conor Thomas fired the hosts level on 62 minutes before Courtney Baker-Richardson put them in front seven minutes later. Chris Long, who spent a short loan spell with Dons back in 2014, completed the rout in the final minute to inflict Dons’ second defeat of the season.
After limping out against Doncaster Rovers last week, Mo Eisa was the only change to the side which sent Dons back to top spot, only fit enough for the bench as Ash Hunter came into the side to replace him.
Following a late night on transfer deadline day, only one of the three last gasp signings was eligible for the squad as Joe Tomlinson was named on the bench. Jack Payne, who was added on Wednesday was also amongst the subs, as was Dean Lewington and Max Dean, who bagged a brace against Chelsea U21s in midweek.
It was another of Tuesday's goal-scorers though who opened the scoring at Gresty Road as Jonathan Leko fired Dons into the lead after just eight minutes. Having already threatened early in the game, Leko was afforded two bites of the cherry to fire low past Harvey Davies.
The early goal rattled the hosts, who seemed desperate for 15 minutes afterwards to give up possession and allow Dons to run the show. Ash Hunter - who would limp out of the game on 38 minutes to be replaced by Dean - had a tame free-kick which was easy for Davies to gather, while Ethan Robson hit a clean drive straight at the keeper and Daniel Harvie was just too short to get on the end of Warren O'Hora's tempting cross.
The visitors would threaten plenty of times without creating anything clear cut as Crewe began to come into the game in the run up to half-time, but while Rio Adebisi was causing problems down the right, his cross fizzing through the area without a touch was as close as they would come.
As good as Dons were in the first-half though, they let Crewe not just off the hook but handed them the victory in the second. Much like in the wins over Tranmere Rovers and Doncaster Rovers, Dons were slow out of the blocks and met with a side desperate to get back into it.
The first warning signs came when Crewe's changed formation, brought about by the introduction of Shilow Tracey at the interval, and they should have been level 10 minutes after the break but Michael Demetriou fired into the side netting from a tight angle.
Crewe were level on 62 minutes though when Conor Thomas was picked out on the edge of the box by half-time substitute Shilow Tracey to pick out the bottom corner to draw the hosts level.
With their tails up, Crewe completed the turnaround seven minutes later when Rio Adebisi's strike was well-saved by Craig MacGillivray, but only palmed into the feet of Courtney Baker-Richardson to convert from close range.
The hosts piled forwards, keen to put the game to bed, with Dons unable to clear their lines, pick passes or effectively clear the ball to their front line, despite the introductions of new signings Joe Tomlinson and Jack Payne in the latter stages.
It would be a mistake from Tomlinson though that would be the final nail in the coffin - his loose touch played Warren O'Hora into trouble, and it allowed Aaron Rowe to burst through on goal, unselfishly unloading it to Chris Long to fire in Crewe's third in the final minute.
Referee: P Wright
Crewe Alexandra: Davies, Cooney (Tracey 46), Adebisi (Williams 80), Demetriou, Offord, Long, Thomas (White 63), Baker-Richardson (Rowe 75), Tabiner, O'Riordan, Powell
Subs not used: Booth, Holiceck, Finney
MK Dons: MacGillivray, O'Hora, Tucker, Smith (Tomlinson 63), Norman, Harvie, Robson, Devoy (Payne 79), Gilbey, Hunter (Dean 37), Leko
Subs not used: Harness, Lewington, Eisa, Ilunga
Booked: Thomas, Gilbey, Demetriou