Aitor Karanka hailed £9million signing Jordan Rhodes after he stepped off the bench to send Middlesbrough top of the Championship.
Rhodes opened his account for Boro with a dramatic last-minute equaliser to earn his side a 1-1 draw at MK Dons.
Dean Bowditch’s ninth-minute goal had looked to have given relegation-battling Dons a vital win, but Rhodes climbed off the bench to net a leveller deep into stoppage time at stadium:mk.
It was his first goal for Middlesbrough since joining from Blackburn last week and helped his new side move a point clear at the top of the Sky Bet Championship standings.
Karanka said: “I’m pleased for Jordan as he’s an amazing scorer.
“His goal today takes the pressure off him and gave us a massive point.”
Middlesbrough went into the game having picked up just one point from their previous three matches, yet head coach Karanka still initially opted to keep Rhodes on the bench.
He was forced into a defensive change, with Tomas Kalas replacing the injured Daniel Ayala, and his side’s back four was breached inside the first 10 minutes.
Kyle McFadzean launched a routine long ball forward, but with Ben Gibson ball-watching, Bowditch was able to gain possession and turn on the edge of the area.
The striker’s low shot was weakly struck, but goalkeeper Dimi Konstantopoulos somehow allowed it to squirm from his grasp and roll into the net.
Boro almost responded immediately, but while Cristhian Stuani raced into the area to latch on to David Nugent’s through ball, his shot was too close to goalkeeper David Martin, who saved with his legs.
That was a rare moment of threat from a Middlesbrough side who have lost their way in the last month or so, and Martin was not called into action again before the interval.
Stewart Downing cut in from the right-hand side before drilling narrowly over the crossbar, but the former England international was a peripheral presence for the majority of the night.
The hosts came close to adding to their lead at the start of the second half, but McFadzean’s glanced header from Jake Forster-Caskey’s free-kick was saved by Konstantopoulos.
That sparked Middlesbrough’s best attacking spell of the game, but the visitors spurned two decent chances within the space of 60 seconds.
First, Nugent rolled a 12-yard shot wide after a committed run into the area had taken him past two MK Dons defenders, then, after Stuani’s shot was saved by Martin, Ritchie De Laet saw his follow-up effort blocked on the line.
Rhodes came on for the final 22 minutes in an attempt to change the game, and the Scot made his decisive intervention deep into stoppage time.
De Laet swung over a hanging cross from the left and Rhodes looped a header over Martin and into the net.
“It’s a massive point,” added Karanka. “Sometimes people can lose perspective and think we will win easily, but I’ve never had an easy game’
Milton Keynes Dons: Martin, Baldock, McFadzean, Walsh, Lewington, Carruthers, Forster-Caskey, Bowditch (Maynard 70), Emmanuel-Thomas (Potter 62), Murphy, Revell (Spence 85). Subs Not Used: Powell, Cropper, Williams, Hall. Booked: Forster-Caskey. Goals: Bowditch 9.
Middlesbrough: Konstantopoulos, Nsue, Kalas, Gibson, De Laet, Forshaw (Rhodes 69), Leadbitter, Stuani (De Pena 69), Ramirez (Kike Sola 85), Downing, Nugent.
Subs Not Used: Clayton, Mejias, De Sart, Fry. Booked: Nugent. Goals: Rhodes 90.
Att: 11,256 Ref: Andy Davies (Hampshire).