Mark Perrow reports from Stadium:MK
Sam Baldock struck twice on his return to MK Dons but could not inspire City’s first league win of the season in an entertaining encounter.
The popular striker gave his current employers the lead either side of the break, but second-half equalisers from Patrick Bamford and Samir Carruthers twice pegged the Robins back.
Both teams also struck the upright as the trend of goalfests continued for Sean O’Driscoll’s side.
The head coach three changes to his side beaten 2-1 by Wolves at Ashton Gate last time out, handing a first start of the season to Bobby Reid in the middle of midfield.
The youngster was partnered in the engine room by the recalled Marvin Elliott, while Joe Bryan also returned to starting duties on the left flank.
Much of the talk in the build-up to City’s first ever visit to Stadium:MK revolved around ‘The Battle of the Brothers’, with skipper Baldock returning to his first club for the first time up against younger brother George, who started on the right side of a five-man Dons midfield.
But it was Sam who took the early lead on points in the metaphorical boxing match, skidding a low 25-yarder into the grasp of David Martin in goal.
Either side of City’s first effort, the home side threatened twice from distance through lively winger Jason Banton, but neither shot unduly troubled Frank Fielding.
Despite Milton Keynes controlling much of the early possession, it was the visitors who came within inches of opening the deadlock when Aden Flint headed Reid’s floated corner against the post with Martin a spectator.
At the other end, Stephen Gleeson’s slide rule pass into the penalty area created an opening for Patrick Bamford, who drilled a shot into the sidenetting from an acute angle.
But having come closest through Flint, it was City who broke the deadlock nine minutes before the interval.
Reid picked the ball up 30 yards from goal and glided past a challenge before picking out Baldock, who controlled a difficult pass with ease before unleashing a powerful shot high past Martin for the opener.
After a seemingly eternal wait for City to return for the start of the second half, the hosts needed only seven minutes to draw level, as Luke Chadwick’s pass was clinically dispatched by Chelsea loanee Bamford with a firm sidefoot across Fielding into the bottom corner.
MK Dons lost Banton to injury immediately after, but his replacement Carruthers soon provided a spark with a curling shot towards the far corner that had Fielding beaten but so, fortunately for City, was the post.
It was contest really coming to life as a spectacle. Reid thrashed a dipping shot just over the top before Baldock struck his second in a real bout of route one football.
With Flint under pressure facing his own goal, the defender had no option but to go back to Fielding, whose first-time clearance downfield missed out every outfield player on the pitch with the exception of Baldock, who sneaked in behind the Dons backline, took the ball down and planted a fine low drive into the corner.
But City’s second lead would last only three minutes, as Carruthers picked out the top corner with another excellent finish from virtually the same spot as Bamford had levelled the first time.
It was becoming increasingly familiar viewing but no less gripping, as another 2013/14 City fixture ebbed and flowed with chances at both ends.
The next of which fell to Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, who had endured his quietest performance to date in a red shirt, but came to life when fed by substitute Jordan Wynter.
Facing up to the last defender, he shimmied on to his left foot and unleashed a thunderous shot beaten out by Martin straight to Baldock, whose touch let him down with a memorable hat-trick staring him in the face.
As the clock ticked down, Shaun Williams struck the post from a 25-yard free kick with the help of a Fielding fingertip, and the drama, at last, was done.