TOWN pressed the self-destruct button to turn a victory cruise into a less than successful damage limitation exercise.
Things were going more than OK in MK as Peter Jackson's men netted through Pawel Abott (seven minutes) and Andy Booth (64) to take an apparent grip on the game.
But in a crazy conclusion, Town contrived to give two goals away, have two men sent off, and miss a great chance to snatch what in the context of the previous minutes, would have been an amazing win.
Things started to go wrong when Sussex referee Clive Penton ruled Danny Adams had fouled Gary Smith just outside the area on 81 minutes.
With Adams having already been booked for a first-half foul on Wade Small, there was initial relief when the red card stayed in Mr Penton's pocket.
But from the resultant free-kick, Dons substitute Nicky Rizzo guided the ball beyond a five-man Town wall and to the right of outstretched goalkeeper Paul Rachubka.
Having previously looked more than comfortable, the visitors were suddenly a little jittery.
And just two minutes later, home fans were celebrating a quickfire comeback when Smith held off Mark Hudson's challenge and crossed low from the Dons right for Izale McLeod to sweep the ball home.
Dons now had the upper hand, and Town's troubles increased a minute into the four added on when David Mirfin fouled Smith as he bore down on Craig Morgan's through ball.
Adams might have escaped a red card, but Mirfin, having been booked for a late tackle on McLeod after 24 minutes, didn't.
At least Rachubka managed to hold Rizzo's set-piece shot from virtually the same spot the Australian had scored.
And from his drop kick upfield, the advancing Abbott held off Trent McLenahan and backheeled the ball perfectly into the path of Jon Worthington, only for the skipper's shot to roll against the base of goalkeeper Matt Baker's right-hand post and away to safety.
Even now the late action wasn't over as Chris Brandon, who had impressed for Town, had a madcap 45 seconds.
Having been yellow carded for a foul on Ben Chorley, he then stuck his shoulder into Rizzo's chest right in front of referee Penton, with the inevitable outcome.
Brandon really should have known better, and like the more unfortunate Mirfin, he will now miss Saturday's trip to Bristol City, when it's crucial Town bounce back from this draw which seemed more like a defeat.
It was hard to believe Town weren't celebrating a win, because for the majority of this contest, they were by far the better side.
Abbott, restored to the starting line-up after proving his recovery from injury by appearing as a substitute in the FA Cup win at Worcester, showed his intentions in the first minute with a neat header from Brandon's cross which Baker saved.
The home goalkeeper was then called on to touch Booth's sixth-minute shot around the post.
MK might have escaped on that occasion, but they were soon a goal down as Brandon took possession from the corner and crossed teasingly from the left for Abbott to head his 12th goal of the season off Baker's right-hand upright.
Booth, with a header, Abbott, with a flicked shot, and Brandon, with a low drive, all stretched Baker before Dons skipper Chorley headed across the face of goal in a 38th-minute counter-attack in what was his side's first real chance.
Town still finished the half in the ascendancy, with Abbott seizing on a weak kick by Baker, only for the relieved goalkeeper to palm away his shot.
Dons produced a lively spell at the start of the second half, with Clive Platt heading just over before McLeod's shot was blocked by Mirfin.
McLeod then came close with a long-ranger, but soon Town were two up.
Booth, celebrating his 32nd birthday, was unmarked as he headed home from Adams' well-placed cross from the left.
When Rachubka bravely smothered at McLeod's feet after 77 minutes, Town seemed firmly on course - if only!
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How they rated:
Paul Rachubka Will have been disappointed to concede at a free-kick, but little he could do about the second goal. Rating: 7/10
Andy Holdsworth Showed calmness and efficiency in his defensive work and always looked dangerous when raiding down the right flank. Rating: 8/10
Danny Adams Did some good things, but also picked up a fifth booking of the campaign and gave away a costly free-kick. Rating: 6/10
Mark Hudson Worked hard in midfield but lost out to Gary Smith in the build-up to MK Dons' equaliser. Also got booked Rating: 7/10
Nathan Clarke Defended well throughout against a couple of awkward opponents in Izale McLeod and Clive Platt. Rating: 7/10
David Mirfin Like fellow centre-back Clarke, stood firm, but late sending off took gloss off his previously bright display. Rating: 7/10
Jon Worthington Never shirked a tackle, but picked up yet another booking and will be kicking himself over that last-gasp miss. Rating: 6/10
Gary T-Fletcher A willing worker on the right side of midfield, but tended to drift in and out of the game a little too much. Rating: 6/10
Chris Brandon Lively and creative for 92 minutes, but unfortunately blotted his copybook with the needless sending off. Rating: 6/10
Andy Booth More than useful in the aerial contest with a big MK side, kept their defence stretched and took his goal well. Rating: 8/10
Pawel Abbott Nice to see him back on the scoresheet, shame to see him booked for an unnecessary skirmish with McLeod. Rating: 7/10
Town substitutes (none used): Carss, Ahmed, T Clarke, Collins, Senior.
MK Dons: Baker, McLenahan, Lewington, Morgan, Chorley, Small (Kamara, 62mins), Mitchell (Rizzo, 66mins), Platt (Wilbraham, 63mins), McLeod, Smith, Quinn. Subs (not used): Edds, Mills.