HARTLEPOOL United suffered last-minute heartache as MK Dons salvaged an opening-day draw at the Stadium:MK.
It had looked as if substitute James Poole had stolen all three points for Pools with just four minutes left on the clock, but Jabo Ibehre snatched a leveller in fortuitous fashion as the clock entered stoppage time.
Mick Wadsworth’s men made a nervy start and in just the fifth minute Evan Horwood took a swipe at fresh air and Daniel Powell found himself in on goal.
Scott Flinders was off his line in a flash, however, and narrowed the angle to block the winger’s shot.
The Dons were channelling all of their attacking efforts through Powell and the 20-year-old hit the bar with a deflected drive soon after.
Angelo Balanta on the opposite flank was proving equally troublesome and he saw another deflected effort loop on to the roof of Scott Flinders’ goal on 13 minutes.
But it was Pools who found the breakthrough against the run of play on 20 minutes.
Andy Monkhouse took two home defenders out of the game with a clever slip to spring Horwood clear.
The left-back refused to rush his delivery and took advantage of an ocean of space to pick out Adam Boyd at the far post who climbed to nod home.
Colin Nish could’ve made it two 10 minutes before the break but his header dropped wide after Neil Austin had arrowed a cross onto his unmarked brow just six yards from goal.
Pools were still riding their luck at the other end and Flinders produced a fine, finger-tipped save from Luke Chadwick to preserve the lead heading into the interval.
A sedate start to the second period was perhaps the undoing of Pools as lacklustre defending saw Luke Chadwick afforded time and space inside the area to pick his spot and equalise from 12 yards on 54 minutes.
The hosts enjoyed much the better of the second period but it was the visitors who regained the lead, Poole seizing possession 30 yards out before forcing his way by two home defenders and lifting over David Martin into the top corner.
But there was to be a sting in the tale and with normal time up, a Dean Bowditch cross cannoned off two bodies inside a crowded penalty area before striking Ibhere and bouncing beyond a wrong-footed Flinders.
And Pools survived a late penalty scare when Stephen Gleeson tumbled under a Neil Austin challenge.
Pools: Flinders, Austin, Collins, Hartley, Horwood, Solano (Luscombe 58), Liddle, Sweeney, Monkhouse, Boyd (Murray 62), Nish (Poole 82)
Subs: Rafferty, Humphreys
MK Dons: Martin, Lewington, Mackenzie, Gleeson, Potter, Baldock, Balanta, Chicksen, Williams, Powell (Bowditch 68), Chadwick (Ibhere 75)
Subs: McLoughlin, Flanagan, O’Shea.