Lyle Taylor's clinical strike breathed new life into AFC Wimbledon's League One survival hopes on a rousing night at the Cherry Red Records Stadium.
Though the winner came from a defensive mistake, there was no doubting that Wimbledon fully deserved the 1-0 victory. This was a night when supporters and players alike gave everything, the men in blue and yellow putting their bodies on the line in response to a fantastic atmosphere.
It was something Neal Ardley had called for in the build-up and this was by far the loudest home atmosphere for some time. Perhaps it could be just the result Wimbledon need to go on and seal the club's League One status.
With Wimbledon facing a tough challenge against a Charlton side rejuvenated by Lee Bowyer, Neal Ardley decided that more attacking presence was required up front. Fit-again Joe Pigott, who had shaken off a bout of concussion, was restored to the side in place of Egli Kaja.
Wimbledon made a bright start with Harry Forrester forcing Ben Amos into a very good save inside three minutes and Charlton needed Ezri Konsa to be sharp to the rebound with Lyle Taylor threatening to get there. Just a minute later Wimbledon came close again when Will Nightingale headed over the crossbar. However, Charlton also showed plenty of threat in the opening exchanges. Sullay Kaikai had a good opportunity from a free-kick, but he drove over the crossbar and then Kaikai got to a cross first from Stephy Mavididi, but he shot over again.
In an all-action start to this game, Pigott showed fine movement to get on the end of a cross from Tom Soares, but his volley was gathered by Amos. As the first-half progressed, Charlton were starting to gain more possession, but they were getting little joy out of a well-drilled Wimbledon defence. There was also threat at the other end from Wimbledon and Pigott did really well to cut inside and create space for himself, but his shot was well held by Amos. Trotter also volleyed just over the crossbar. In a first-half that ebbed and flowed, Wimbledon gave away a free-kick in a dangerous position just outside the area, but Jake Forster-Caskey drove over the crossbar.
There was a setback for Wimbledon in the 33rd minute with Will Nightingale forced off injured, the young centre-back helped off by physio Stuart Douglas. Though that was a blow, at least Darius Charles had received the all-clear after injury and he was thrust straight back into the action. As the half progressed, Wimbledon supporters really cranked up the decibel levels around the ground to get behind their team. Charlton threatened just before half-time when Patrick Bauer headed towards goal and the ball landed at the feet of Mavididi, but he just failed to turn the ball home.
It looked to be heading towards a 0-0 half-time score-line, but a vital moment arrived in first-half injury-time. A slip by last-man Bauer gave Taylor a great chance and he took full advantage by keeping his cool to slot past Amos. It was the signal for ecstatic scenes around the Cherry Red Records Stadium with the feeling growing that it was a key moment in Wimbledon's season.
Though Charlton attempted to pour forward at the start of the second-half, Charlton were well shackled with Tom Soares having another solid game in front of the Wimbledon back-line. At the other end, Dean Parrett showed his quality once again by picking out Harry Forrester, but he was just stopped before he could get in on goal. Fine wing play by Parrett then created space for a cross and his ball in was headed over by Pigott, who had made a difference with his presence up front. Though Charlton had another free-kick opportunity when Kaikai drove over the crossbar, Charlton were not making any impression. With that in mind, Lee Bowyer decided to go for something different by utilising the height of Northern Ireland international Josh Magennis, who came on for Mavididi.
During the next spell, Wimbledon had to show how much desire there was to stay in League One and Neal Ardley's men were certainly not found wanting. With Charlton piling forward, Deji Oshilaja and Darius Charles both made vital interventions to stop crosses finding their targets and Lyle Taylor received deserved adulation for tracking back to win a challenge. Neal Ardley decided it was time for a change 20 minutes from time when he introduced Andy Barcham in place of Pigott, who received a great ovation from the Dons faithful for a tireless shift up front. There was a let-off for Wimbledon when Jason Pearce reached a corner from Forster-Caskey first, but his header bounced off a post.
As we entered the final 10 minutes, Wimbledon supporters were really getting behind their team to get them over the line. In response, the players were giving absolutely everything for the cause. Though Charlton put the pressure on during the latter stages, Wimbledon showed plenty of fight to defy them and it was a fully deserved victory in the end.
AFC Wimbledon: George Long, Barry Fuller, Jon Meades, Deji Oshilaja, Will Nightingale (Darius Charles), Dean Parrett, Tom Soares, Liam Trotter, Harry Forrester (George Francomb), Lyle Taylor, Joe Pigott (Andy Barcham).
Pic credit: Matt Redman, Pro Sports Images.