Wanderers’ surge towards the play-off places was slowed as they suffered only a second defeat in 11 games at the hands of promotion-chasing MK Dons.
Ian Evatt’s men drew a blank in front of goal for the first time since starting their winning run in mid-January.
And as the rigours of a heavy recent workload possibly took their toll, the Dons cashed in with a goal in each half to move level on points with second-placed Wigan.
Wanderers more than matched the home side for long periods of an attritional contest between two in-form sides seeking not to give an inch.
But, for once, the Whites struggled to find top gear and a cutting edge and despite the promise of a second-half fightback were finally sunk by Scott Twine’s goal 16 minutes from the end.
Wanderers welcomed back captain Ricardo Santos and also brought Kyle Dempsey and in-form frontman Amadou Bakayoko back into their starting line-up as they aimed to end a terrific month on another high.
Five wins in February had continued the Whites’ climb up the table but in MK Dons they faced a side with just one defeat in their previous 13 league games and eyeing an automatic promotion spot.
And the Dons started like a side still harbouring top-two ambitions as they didn’t allow Wanderers to settle and threatened to take an early lead.
It took a superb block from George Johnston to deny on-loan Aston Villa youngster Kaine Kesler Hayden and Twine then hit the inside of a post – possibly via a vital touch from James Trafford.
Trafford then did his best to keep the hosts out again but despite an excellent double save he was beaten as the Dons made it 1-0 after 16 minutes.
The on-loan keeper kept out Harry Darling’s swerving long-range effort and the initial follow-up from Mo Eisa but the striker – who looked to have used his arm to control the ball – was able to score at the second attempt as he slotted home.
Wanderers struggled to find an initial response but finished the first half strongly and were only inches away from levelling through Bakayoko.
Again there looked to be a possible case for handball when Declan John headed a Gethin Jones’ cross against the raised arm of a defender.
Wanderers got nothing more than a corner, but from John’s delivery Bakayoko connected with a thumping header that Jamie Cumming touched onto the underside of the bar with a superb finger-tip save.
Evatt replaced Aaron Morley with Dapo Afolayan at the start of the second half – with the impressive Dempsey dropping into a deeper role – as Wanderers looked to maintain their momentum and find a route back into the game.
And most of the attacking came from the Whites in front of an away end containing more than 2,000 travelling fans.
Marlon Fossey and Gethin Jones both got behind the Dons’ defence to deliver balls that just needed a decisive touch in front of goal before Santos headed another John corner over the top.
Evatt then sent on Jon Dadi Bodvarsson and Kieran Sadlier to try and force the breakthrough but neither had the chance to make an impression before the Dons were handed a second goal to double their lead.
Trafford’s attempted pass out reached only Kesler Hayden and he was allowed to advance into the penalty area before picking out Twine to fire home and leave Wanderers to look forward to a blank mid-week and re-group for a renewed push over their final 11 games.
Wanderers: Trafford; Jones, Santos, Johnston; Fossey, Williams, Morley (Afolayan HT), John (Sadlier 72); Dempsey; Bakayoko (Bodvarsson 72), Charles. Substitutes: Dixon, Aimson, Thomason, Gordon.
MK Dons: Cumming; O’Hora, Darling, Lewington; Kesler Hayden, Kasumu (McEachran, 76), Coventry, Watson; Parrott, Twine; Eisa (Wickham 65). Substitutes: Ravizzoli, Smith, Kemp, Boateng, Davies.
Referee: Sebastian Stockbridge
Attendance: 10,388 (Wanderers 2,081)