HULL CITY wasted a golden opportunity to return to the automatic promotion places with a lacklustre display at home to MK Dons.
With Middlesbrough and Brighton not in action today, the Tigers were denied the three points that would have taken the Yorkshire club back into the top two.
Antony Kay put the visitors ahead just after half-time and although Sam Clucas replied almost straight away, Hull had to settle for a point.
Even eight minutes of stoppage time could not yield a winner for the Tigers, who must now wait nervously to see how Boro fare tomorrow at Charlton Athletic.
Hull laboured for long periods in the first half, the absence of Jake Livermore following a failed fitness test before kick-off being keenly felt.
The hosts lacked the tempo that the former Tottenham Hotspur man brings to the centre of pitch and, as a result, the Dons looked comfortable.
Ahmed Elmohamady did drag a shot wide on the half-hour before Curtis Davies blazed over after being played in behind the visitors defence. Chuba Akpom and Mohamed Diame were similarly wasteful with half chances.
But, otherwise, it was a tame and frustrating opening 45 minutes for the KC Stadium faithful, many of whom jeered their team off at the break.
Matters took a turn for the worse five minutes into the second half for City, when wretched defending allowed the Dons to take the lead.
Rob Hall being allowed to run unchallenged for almost 40 yards before finally being stopped at the cost of a corner was bad enough.
But, from the resulting flag-kick, Ahmed Elmohamady totally missed an attempted header and Antony Kay took advantage to beat Allan McGregor.
The Tigers’ response took just three minutes, Sam Clucas bringing the home side level with a beautifully executed free-kick that left visiting goalkeeper David Martin rooted to the spot.
Chuba Akpom should then had put the hosts ahead just after the hour but he headed over when found by Diame.
Clucas then tested Martin with a 30-yard effort that the goalkeeper could only push round the post after it bounced in front of him before Akpom again fired over the crossbar from distance.
Abel Hernandez then wasted a great opportunity when he opted not to pass to Diame when he was in space, allowing the Dons to get back and crowd out an eventual shot from Akpom.
Milton Keynes had a rare break nine minutes from time when Josh Murphy raced out of his own half and released Daniel Powell, whose shot was saved by McGregor.
Hull continued to push for a winner during those eight minutes of stoppage time but Clucas had a volley blocked by Kyle McFadzean and Hernandez fired wide when well placed.
Hull manager Steve Bruce admitted to a feeling of frustration.
Bruce said: “We’re frustrated but we didn’t play anywhere near well enough in the first half. We’ve played better in the second half.
“First half we didn’t move the ball quick enough and gave the ball away in bad areas.”
Bruce admitted his side, without a win in three Championship games or at home since the 6-0 demolition of Charlton in mid-January, need to improve their performance ahead of two games in the coming week against Nottingham Forest and Middlesbrough.
“At the end of the day I pick the team but I scratch my head and ask why we’ve played like that in the first half,” said Bruce.
“We’ve got to take away the nerves and a little bit of edginess which may be creeping in.”
Hull were without Jake Livermore, Robert Snodgrass and Nick Powell who were all injured in the build-up to the game.
Bruce revealed: “Unfortunately Jake tweaked a knee yesterday in training. Snodgrass and Powell both picked up little niggly injuries.
“We don’t know who’s going to be available on Tuesday (to play Forest) but thankfully Jake is not a horrendous one. I think it’s 50-50.”
MK Dons manager Karl Robinson felt Hull striker Abel Hernandez appeared to use his hand to control the ball before winning the free-kick on the edge of the area from which Clucas earned his side a point.
Robinson said: “I thought it was a handball that led to it.”
Despite being disappointed at conceding the equaliser Robinson did not point the finger of blame entirely at referee Jeremy Simpson.
“They are a team, the officials, and referees get slated up and down the country,” he said. “As a group of four they should be judged and he wasn’t assisted right today and that was disappointing.”
Robinson praised his players for their work rate and their application in securing a valuable point.
“I thought there were two completely different halves,” he said. “I thought the first half we dominated and moved the ball unbelievably well.
“For a team where we are to come to the KC Stadium and perform the way we did was excellent.
“Second half, playing one of the best teams in the league, we knew how hard it was always going to be. I thought my players’ application was sensational.
“For our hunger and our desire I think we deserved more than we got.”
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