Cherries’ hopes of reaching the League One play-offs suffered another setback this afternoon as rivals MK Dons claimed a 1-0 win at Seward Stadium.

Lee Bradbury’s men lost for the third consecutive league game – leaving them without a win in four outings – after Mathias Doumbe’s first-half goal sealed victory for the Milton Keynes outfit.

Record signing Matt Tubbs twice went close for Cherries before defender Doumbe fired home a close-range opener in the 32nd minute.

Charlie MacDonald hit the crossbar as Dons came close to getting a second and Wes Thomas came within inches of a dramatic last-gasp leveller.

But Dons held on to strengthen their own position in the top six and leave Cherries with plenty of work to do if they are to force their way into the end-of-season promotion shoot-out.

Cherries were hit by a setback in the build-up to the match when leading goalscorer Marc Pugh sustained an ankle injury in training on Friday.

He was one of two enforced changes to Bradbury’s starting line-up, with the other, Stephen Purches, ruled out for six to nine months due to the broken leg he suffered in last weekend’s defeat at Rochdale.

New loan signing Miles Addison was drafted in at centre-half and Scott Malone was promoted from the bench.

Fit-again Shaun Cooper and Wes Fogden were named among the substitutes, while first-year professional Dan Strugnell and veteran striker Steve Fletcher dropped out of the matchday 16.

Cherries and Dons had their chances in a lively opening period – with both teams looking to enhance their respective play-off chances.

Jay O’Shea should have done better for the visitors with the game’s first opportunity, but he could only drag wide after being teed up by fellow winger Daniel Powell.

Stephane Zubar headed over a Shaun MacDonald corner before Tubbs forced Dons keeper David Martin into an excellent eighth-minute save. The Verwood-raised frontman looked set to open the scoring after latching on to a Malone pass, but Martin was equal to his powerful low strike with a superb one-handed stop.

At the other end, Darryl Flahavan showed good handling to grasp Shaun Williams’s curling free-kick as the end-to-end action continued.

Another Williams set-piece almost unlocked the Cherries defence when his dipping delivery deceived Zubar and found Doumbe at the far post, but the defender’s low cross flew across the face of goal to safety.

Dons were looking comfortable in possession and bright in attack, but it was Cherries who should have drawn first blood when Thomas sent strike partner Tubbs racing clear. The former Crawley Town hotshot failed to capitalise on the opening, though, as he thumped wide of the near post.

And Cherries were made to pay when Karl Robinson’s men took a 32nd-minute lead. There appeared to be little danger as Dean Bowditch’s inswinging corner made its way to a crowded near post, but Cherries failed to clear and Doumbe was on hand to punish the hosts, pouncing on the loose ball to fire high into the net from close range.

Protecting their one-goal advantage, Dons packed the midfield after the break and looked to control possession.

This tactic restricted Cherries to shots from distance as Thomas stung Martin’s palms before releasing Malone to send a fierce left-foot volley narrowly wide.

Cherries continued to search for an equaliser but they were grateful for the woodwork as Dons came within inches of extending their cushion in the 61st minute. Chasing a direct ball, Charlie MacDonald shrugged off McDermott to edge clear, only for his well-struck effort to beat Flahavan and bounce back off the crossbar.

Boss Bradbury opted for fresh legs when he introduced Jayden Stockley from the bench in place of Tubbs.

But Dons continued to dictate much of the play with Martin going largely untested.

Cherries should have grabbed a point in the closing moments when Thomas beat Martin to a loose ball, only for his effort to roll agonisingly wide.

Cherries: (4-4-2) Flahavan; Francis, Zubar, Addison, Daniels; McDermott (Fogden, 65), Arter, S MacDonald, Malone; Tubbs (Stockley, 71), Thomas. Unused subs: Cooper, Gregory, Thomas (g/k).

Booked: McDermott, Thomas

MK Dons: (4-4-2) Martin; Tavernier, Doumbe, Flanagan, Lewington; Powell, S Williams, Smith, O’Shea (Chadwick, 69); Bowditch, C MacDonald (Ibehre, 63). Unused subs: Chicksen, G Williams, McLoughlin (g/k).

Booked: Smith

Referee: Darren Deadman (Cambridgeshire)

Attendance: 6,419 (including 391 away supporters)