Kieran Djilali ended four months of injury hell as AFC Wimbledon moved a step closer to securing their Football League future with a 2-1 win over Dagenham & Redbridge.
The free signing last summer has made just six appearances before today – the last in November when he tore his hamstring – but came off the bench to volley home a vital winner and race to celebrate with physio Mike Rayner.
Jack Midson’s 18th goal of the season had earlier put them ahead with quarter of an hour to go but Michael Spillane’s header looked to have rescued a point for the fellow League Two strugglers.
If it wasn’t for a superb Seb Brown save deep into injury time, they would have got one too but it was Wimbledon who grabbed the all important win.
The first half was hardly an exhibition of free flowing football, with the ball spending more time in the air going to between keepers than anything else.
Wimbledon did look brighter though going forward as they threatened on more than one occasion to break the offside trap, while, at the back they looked solid.
Chances were few. Sammy Moore knocked Christian Jolley’s cross wide and shot over from distance, while Byron Harrison had their best chance but shot straight at Jonathan Bond with the conviction of a man still waiting to break his Dons duck in League Two.
At the other end, Ben Reeves shot straight at Brown at the back post, Brian Woodall skewed a shot from the edge of the box horribly wide, and Jon Nurse had a near post volley deflected over.
The second half showed signs of improvement in terms of chances as Harrison just failed to connect with Sam Hatton’s superb cross and then Midson hit the post and Rashid Yussuff had his follow up well saved.
Billy Bingham and Woodall both headed over when they should have done better and Brown had to be at full stretch to deny Nurse.
Quality was hard to come by but the game came to life as it entered the last 15 minutes.
Daggers substitute Rob Edmans should have been them in front as he missed Nurse’s inviting cross inside the six-yard box and was made to pay less than a minute later.
Midson, so often the Dons saviour this season, turned brilliantly on the edge of the box and let fly into the top corner with the help of a slight deflection – it was his 16th in the league this season and 18th in total.
But there was always the fear they would struggle to keep a clean sheet and those fears were realised with eight minutes to go.
Midson cleared a Spillane header off the line and Brown brilliantly turned Woodall’s follow-up over the bar – but from the resultant corner Spillane rose unmarked to head home.
But there was still time for the Dons to win it as Moore and Jolley got in each other’s way from a Yussuff cross and Djilali had time to volley home at the back post through Jonathan Bond’s legs.
It was a scrappy goal but Dons fans did not care and particularly Djilali.
There was still time for Brown to expertly keep out Edmans near post header before the referee blew the final whistle and everyone inside the ground breathed a collective sigh of relief.