Preston North End secured their first victory back in the Championship, Paul Gallagher’s cool finish proving decisive against MK Dons at stadium:mk.
The Lilywhites had to play the final stages with 10 men after substitute Jordan Hugill was sent-off just four minutes after coming on for stamping on Kyle McFadzean.
Gallagher netted the winner in the 28th minute, latching on to a pass from Joe Garner and slipping it past keeper David Martin.
It finished off a slick-moving counter attack, with John Welsh, Gallagher and Will Keane all involved before Garner played in Gallagher.
Daniel Johnson had two good chances either side of the goal, with Keane going close in the second half.
In the main, North End held their hosts at arms-length, MK Dons’ best chance falling to Carl Baker who was denied by a fine save from Jordan Pickford.
PNE boss Simon Grayson had gone with 10 of the side which had started last weekend’s draw with Middlesbrough, Marnick Vermijl the player to miss out because of a knock.
Chris Humphrey came into the side and started as right wing-back in a 3-5-2 formation.
In the first two minutes, a searching free-kick from Gallagher found Tom Clarke beyond the far post but he was unable to steer his header on target and the ball dropped behind..
A decent spell of pressure from the home side saw striker Sam Gallagher twist and turn himself into a shooting position before firing an effort across goal and wide.
Dean Lewington lifted a free-kick high over the bar after Paul Huntington had fouled Gallagher.
A fine save from Pickford kept the scoreline blank in the 19th minute, the keeper diving full-length to push out a header from Baker.
The goalkeeper then made a more routine save to gather a Baker shot at his near post.
Steadily, North End worked their way into the game, relaying heavily on the counter-attack.
A pass from Gallagher played in Johnson with 25 minutes played, the midfielder hitting a shot from the edge of the box across goal and just wide of the far post.
The counter-attack served the visitors well when they took the lead in the 28th minute.
Welsh won possession in the centre-circle, Gallagher sweeping a pass to Keane on the right.
Keane played in Garner who motored towards the edge of the box and slipped a fine pass through to Gallagher.
His first touch saw him side-step Antony Kay before Gallagher calmly slotted a right-foot finish past Martin.
Johnson could have doubled the advantage within five minutes with a chance very similar to his one earlier.
This time it was Keane playing him in, again the midfielder putting a shot just the wrong side of the post on the edge of the box.
Clarke had the ball in the net in the 40th minute with a cushioned side-foot finish at the back post from a Gallagher corner.
But referee Andrew Madley disallowed it out after spotting a push as the ball travelled over.
Gallagher got a yellow card inside the opening 30 seconds of the second half for a foul on Jordan Spence, North End defending the subsequent free-kick well.
In the 51st minute, Gallagher’s corner from the right found Garner in the middle, his header looping over the bar.
Four minutes later, the ball broke out to Humphrey on the right after Keane had been crowded out in the box.
Humphrey lifted a cross back into the middle which was headed out as far as Gallagher.
He brought it down on his chest and struck a right-foot volley which clipped a defender and went behind for a corner.
Gallagher was involved again as the game moved beyond the hour mark, lifting a clever ball over the top of the home defence.
It let in Keane down the left hand side of the box, the striker hitting a low shot across goal and wide of the back post.
Space opened up for Garner in the 74th minute but he was well off target with a shot from 25 yards.
Hugill replaced Keane in the 80th minute and lasted only four minutes on the pitch before being sent-off.
After giving away a free-kick on the half-way line, Hugill aimed a stamp at McFadzean who was on the floor.
It was not the hardest stamp in the world but the intent was there and Mr Madley pulled out the red card.
North End had plenty of defending to do after that but saw out those last six minutes of regular time as well as six minutes of stoppage-time.
MK Dons:Martin, Spence, McFadzean, Kay, Lewington, Baker (Church 77), Potter, Carruthers (Benavante 67), Reeves, Bowditch (Jennings 77), Gallagher. Unused subs: Hodson, Walsh, Aguza, Cropper.
Booked: Jennings 90
PNE: Pickford, Clarke, Huntington, Wright, Cunningham, Humphrey (Woods 88), Welsh, Johnson, Gallagher (Browne 77), Keane (Hugill 80), Garner. Unused subs: Kilkenny, Davies, Brownhill, Kirkland.
Booked: Cunningham 16, Gallagher 46, Keane 73, Pickford 90
Sent-off: Hugill 84
Referee: Andrew Madley (West Yorkshire)
Attendance: 11,035 (1,208 PNE)