DARYL MURPHY atoned for a missed penalty on the stroke of full-time to give Bolton Wanderers a precious victory against ten-men MK Dons with an injury-time winner at the University of Bolton StadIum.
It was Wanderers third successive league victory which took them into a positive points.
After dominating the game and creating the better of the chances, it looked as if Wanderers were heading for a frustrating draw.
And when the big Irishman saw his penalty saved on 90 minutes it appeared that fortune had abandoned Wanderers.
But his persistence paid off and he made an astute finish to send the Wanderers fans into delirium deep into time added on.
Captain Liam Bridcutt was the surprise inclusion to the starting XI as manager Keith Hill made two changes from the side that bowed out of the Emirates FA Cup last weekend.
Bridcutt returned after a six-week layoff at the expense of Sonny Graham while Josh Earl came in for Yoan Zouma.
Wanderers started off on the front foot with a good passage of play seeing Luke Murphy find Adam Chicksen on the flank. The defender’s resulting cross was headed over the bar by Daryl Murphy.
Just a minute later and Chris O’Grady saw a goalbound effort blocked by a Dons defender after latching on to a Luke Murphy pass.
The hosts were well on top during the opening stages with another well placed Chicksen cross causing problems for the Dons defence. However, Joe Dodoo wasn’t quite able to make a solid connection with the centre.
Wanderers had to have their wits about them when Callum Brittain latched on to a superb lofted pass and drilled in a low cross which was dealt with by Earl.
Jake Wright then came to the rescue to get in the way of a Ben Reeves shot after he was picked out inside the area.
Daryl Murphy and Luke Murphy combined at the other end with the former seeing a header held by Lee Nichols in the Dons’ goal.
Former Wanderers Joe Mason had a golden chance to put the visitors in front when he was put through on goal, but the slightest of touches from Remi Matthews saw the ball cannon off the post to give Wanderers a let off.
A foul on Daryl Murphy resulted in a free kick for Wanderers from 25 yards out, but Josh Emmanuel’s set-piece went over the bar.
A lovely deft touch from O’Grady played in Chicksen, whose cross deflected for a corner as Wanderers seized the initiative.
On the half hour mark, Nicholls pushed away Luke Murphy’s angled drive after Jason Lowe latched onto Daryl Murphy’s flick-on to drive into space.
Ben Reeves tried a speculative shot from distance but his effort sailed comfortably over the bar.
Reeves was proving to be the main source of danger and his left footed cross enabled George Wiliiams to power a header across goal albeit wide of target.
Nicholls produced a stunning save to thwart Luke Murphy after the Wanderers midfielder powered a shot towards goal after Bridcutt’s cross was cleared into his path.
From the resulting corner, Nicholls made yet another fantastic save to keep out Daryl Murphy’s header after he got on the end of Emmanuel’s dead ball delivery.
The second-half started rather slowly but it almost came to life through Luke Murphy who blasted an effort from the edge of the box which forced Nicholls into parrying the ball before collecting it at the second attempt.
Emmanuel was in the right place to make an important clearance after Brittain’s cross was on its way to Jordan Bowery at the far post.
Mason then fired over the bar from 15 yards out after he got on the end of Dean Lewington’s free kick.
Wanderers were handed a boost when Williams was sent off after appearing to strike substitute Verlinden, who for some reason was shown a yellow card, in the face during an off the ball incident.
Immediately, the hosts were looking to take advantage of their numerical superiority and Lowe went wide with a drive from the edge of the box.
Emmanuel saw his shot blocked after running into the box before Bridcutt tried his luck from range only to see Nicholls make a comfortable save.
Verlinden was cause problems for the visitors and his low centre was turned towards goal by Daryl Murphy before Cargill got in a vital block.
O’Grady then switched the play to Verlinden and he tormented Brittain before lashing a shot wide of target from narrow angle.
At the other end Gilbey controlled the ball before hitting a rising strike over the bar from 20 yards out.
A big chance fell to the Dons when Bowery headed back across goal only for Walsh to let fly from close range. Fortunately, the ball went over Matthews’ bar.
Wanderers were persevering though and Chicksen’s run down the left saw him pull back for Lowe whose shot was blocked before going for a corner.
On the stroke of full-time Wanderers were awarded a penalty after Cargill handled the ball in the area. Daryl Murphy’s powerful penalty was saved with Nicholls diving at full stretch to keep out the Irishman from six yards.
A frustrating draw was on the cards, but deep into time added on the big striker atoned for his miss to give Wanderers a stunning last-gasp victory.
Team: Matthews, Emmanuel, Lowe, Wright, L Murphy, D Murphy, O’Grady (Politic 79), Chicksen, Dodoo Verlinden 57), Bridcutt, Earl
Subs Not Used: Alexander, Darcy, Zouma, Senior, Graham