Wimbledon suffered late heartbreak at Mansfield with a goal from Rakish Bingham condemning Neal Ardley’s men to a third successive away defeat.
The Dons had looked set to earn a point that they deserved on the balance of play after an equaliser from George Francomb, but Bingham struck two minutes from time to earn a 2-1 win for Mansfield.
Neal Ardley made four changes to his starting line-up and the most notable inclusion was Ross Worner, who made his first League 2 start of the season in place of Joe McDonnell. Sammy Moore was restored to the side in place of the suspended Dannie Bulman with Callum Kennedy and Sean Rigg both back in for George Francomb and Alfie Potter.
It was a tough start for Wimbledon as Mansfield exerted early pressure and the hosts were so unlucky not to go in front in the sixth minute. A simple ball through the middle caught out Wimbledon with Billy Kee cracking a shot against the crossbar and then his follow-up header was too high.
The opening exchanges suggested it was going to be a tough night for Wimbledon, but the Dons gradually started to create chances. Sammy Moore, who scored after just 10 seconds here five years ago, tried his luck with an effort that was just deflected wide. Dave Winfield then came even closer to the opener when he rose highest in the area to meet a Jake Reeves corner, but his header was superbly saved by Mansfield goalkeeper Lenny Pidgeley. It looked promising for Wimbledon in an attacking sense with Bayo Akinfenwa’s hold-up play providing a good platform for attacks.
Akinfenwa showed he was in confident mood after his wonderful goal at Exeter and he had his first sight of goal from 30 yards when he tried his luck with a volley, but this time it sailed over the crossbar. Akinfenwa then got on the end of a fine cross from Fuller, but his volley from 10 yards lacked power and Pidgeley saved comfortably.
Neal Ardley was forced into a change in the 32nd minute when Callum Kennedy had to go off injured and he was replaced by George Francomb. Though the Dons had shaded the first half in terms of possession and chances, Mansfield maintained a threat and Winfield was required to make a fine last-gasp block to deny Vadaine Oliver’s strike from finding the net.
Wimbledon started the second half in attacking mood and created a great chance to take the lead. Craig Tanner, who was very lively on the night, produced a lovely through ball that picked out Jake Reeves, but his shot lacked power and Pidgeley was equal to it. Tanner then produced a lovely turn and a fierce shot, but the ball flashed wide.
Early second-half pressure from Wimbledon mattered little though when Mansfield seized the initiative. A free-kick was launched into the area and when the ball was only half cleared, it fell nicely for Lee Beevers, who found the bottom corner with a deflected drive.
With the Dons having failed to find a quick response, Neal Ardley decided to make a change with Ade Azeez entering the fray for Rigg. Wimbledon did gradually start to come into it and they were given a helping hand to get back into the game. Mansfield defender Ryan Tafazolli handled a ball into the box and referee Scott Duncan had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. With Bayo Akinfenwa having missed his last two penalties, the striker unselfishly handed over penalty duties and Francomb blasted home emphatically from 12 yards.
The equaliser completely transformed the match and Wimbledon came so close to taking the lead when Azeez was denied by Pidgeley. With Mansfield rocked back towards their own goal, there was little sign of Neal Ardley settling for a point as he sent on Alfie Potter for Tanner. The Dons had a great chance to win it 10 minutes from time when Azeez broke through, but he drove over the crossbar from an acute angle.
However, the visitors succumbed to a defeat that was hard to take when Bingham pounced on a loose ball after Winfield had failed to clear before volleying home emphatically. There was no way back for Wimbledon during the last two minutes and five minutes added time that followed and the Dons will be hoping to reignite their season back on home turf against Portsmouth on Saturday.
AFC Wimbledon: Ross Worner, Barry Fuller, Jack Smith, Sammy Moore, Bayo Akinfenwa, Sean Rigg (Ade Azeez), Callum Kennedy (George Francomb), Jake Reeves, Craig Tanner (Alfie Potter), Dave Winfield, Deji Oshilaja.