Phil Smith's verdict: Lee Johnson's Sunderland encourage, excite and bitterly frustrate all at once
The rotten weather conditions this week have seen Sunderland's new head coach adopt a flat cap a la Shelby and with a few minutes to go in this frenetic game, a refereeing decision left him so incandescent with rage that he removed it and briefly thought about launching it down the touchline.
He thought better of it, but only for a moment, and off it went.
The decision that had so riled him came as Charlie Wyke burst into space, only for the whistle to be blown and the possible advantage prevented.
It was the tip of the iceberg, really, on an afternoon in which Sunderland were denied a clear penalty for handball and an offside goal was incorrectly allowed to stand.
It wasn't just his dugout, though, where tempers were frayed.
Russell Martin is another manager whose touchline demeanour is usually relatively calm, but shortly before Johnson's fury he too had been raging inside his technical area.
You could tell this was not standard practice as the MK Dons boss didn't seem to be sure whether to remonstrate with the referee, the linesman or the fourth official.
To be safe, he went with all three.
This told you plenty about the level of control the officials had at this stage of the contest, for sure, but it also told you plenty about the game as a whole.
In the last twenty minutes it had broken wide open, a tense mix of genuine quality and regular uncertainty.
To that end, it felt like a fair summation of Johnson's Sunderland tenure so far.
The Black Cats were within one 90 minute game maddening, threatening and at times, actually quite exciting.
Both sides could have won it; both sides could most certainly have lost it.
It was never going to play out as it had done on Tuesday night, and right from the off the return of league action and a number of established players on both sides lifted the tempo.
True enough, Sunderland's early goal was reminiscent of the ruthless touch they showed in midweek.
There seemed to be little danger to MK Dons when Aiden O'Brien received the ball with back to goal, but the Irishman's quick pass out to the left was superb. As was Aiden McGeady's delicate pass into the box; as was the finish from Wyke.
What followed though, was a period so lacklustre that it served to underline why at this stage, Sunderland are comfortably off the pace in the race for the top two.
Producing consistently within games has been a regular issue since Johnson took charge, and in part this is an understandable reflection of a mid-season change in philosophy.
Yet there was no excuse for the slackness Sunderland showed as MK Dons rebounded from their early setback and took almost complete control of the contest.
Martin's side had comprehensively outplayed the Black Cats at the Stadium of Light earlier this season, in a game that did much to convince the club's hierarchy that a change in style and approach was becoming increasingly necessary.
So the way the home side created dangerous opportunities with brave switches of play and strong runs from midfield should have come as no surprise.
It seemed that way, though, and when Joe Mason spurned a big chance inside the box just after the half-hour mark, the Black Cats were fortunate that they had not been put to the sword.
Johnson's half-time message was, as he put it, 'aggressive'.
The Sunderland head coach had raised a few eyebrows with his team selection but he has been insistent in his message that he will have to rotate to meet the demands of the fixture schedule.
More broadly, it's also true that his 4-2-2-2 system will mean that the Black Cats always give up chances to their opposition.
This was not the issue here, when poor play swung the balance of the game against Johnson's side.
Sunderland's belated response to Cameron Jerome's goal showed more of what he is looking for.
They had spurned some significant chances before the break, when their high pressing and willingness to get bodies in the box had yielded openings.
In the latter stages of the second half, they produced some superb saves from Andrew Fisher in the MK Dons goal and though there was always space and some hope for the home side, the Black Cats had the better of it.
The ending was almost perfect.
A ball dropped for McGeady in the box and just as he had done in the dying embers of that Checkatrade Trophy final, the winger showed a moment of composure not to take the effort first time, taking a flailing defender out of the equation.
This time, Fisher made a stunning stop.
At this point, it was hard not to feel the absence of supporters and there was a broader point to consider here.
Johnson's long-term vision for the team is to make it quicker, braver and more inventive.
Much of this last fifteen to twenty minutes was messy for both teams, full of wild and desperate challenges.
It was also genuinely exciting to watch, and it begins to feel as if a more attacking identity is starting to take hold.
Your mind wandered to what the noise would have been like when that ball dropped for McGeady, or when Jordan Jones burst past the full back towards the byline. Yet there was no mistaking that familiar sinking feeling at full time, another draw, another missed opportunity.
That Johnson’s reaction focused as much on that woeful fifteen minutes as anything else, including the refereeing, told you he felt the same frustration.
It does feel like we are moving towards a Sunderland side supporters will want to watch, but even as their was much to like, there was no hiding from some significant shortcomings here.