WEDNESDAY sustained their challenge for an automatic promotion spot with a well-earned point last night against one of their rivals.
The Owls overtook United and moved up to third, level on points with second-placed Huddersfield.
They profited from an own goal equaliser but deserved at least a draw from a disciplined and workmanlike display that also maintained the six-point gap between them and MK Dons.
In many ways it was an unremarkable match except for the sending-off near the end of Dons manager Karl Robinson after a touchline incident involving Reda Johnson.
Gary Megson made six changes to the side that started the Cup-tie at Blackpool.
Chris Sedgwick and David Prutton kept their places after playing well at Bloomfield Road.
Jose Semedo, Miguel Llera, Reda Johnson, Gary Madine, Jon Otsemobor and Chris O’Grady returned.
Out went Chris Lines, Liam Palmer, Rob Jones, Clinton Morrison, Ryan Lowe and Mark Beevers and there was no return for Jermaine Johnson.
Both sides had their new loan signings on the bench, John Bostock for Wednesday and Alan Smith for Dons.
The home club had completed a surprise beat-the-deadline signing of former Wednesday loan star James Tavernier but he was ineligible to face the Owls.
Dons have taken Newcastle right back Tavernier on loan for the rest of the season after Adam Smith was unexpectedly recalled by Spurs and joined Leeds.
It was cat and mouse last night with nothing to separate the sides and not a glimmer of a chance for either until Dons snatched a 15th minute lead.
Forward Luke Chadwick took advantage of space outside the box to shoot. The ball came down off the bar and seemed to hit Stephen Bywater before going over the line. Then it was more evenly matched stuff until a burst of Wednesday pressure, a couple of set pieces and equaliser in the 27th minute.
A Sedgwick corner was half-cleared, he put a fine ball back in from the left, the keeper struggled in the air amid a crowd of bodies and when the ball dropped into a melee it was stabbed into the net from close range. It was impossible to tell from long distance who had got the final touch; neither was the stadium announcer able to name the scorer.
No Wednesday player celebrated and word from the touchline was that the ball had gone in off home centre half Gary MacKenzie - his second own goal in successive games.
An Otsemobor long throw forced to defend desperately at their near post. But mostly the first half was full of cagey football and lacking in incident.
Wednesday were disciplined and though Dons have a reputation for free-flowing play they were unable to produce that to any effect. Lewis Buxton playing in front of the back four was one reason, and Semedo and Prutton and Semedo were stalwarts in central midfield. Inevitably some attacking width was sacrificed, though.
Early in the second half a Sedgwick corner brought a chance, a header by Johnson that was cleared from the goalmouth.
Then the wide man did it again, with his corner put wide by what looked like the head of Llera.
The two clubs’ new boys made their bow as subs, Smith in central midfield for Dons, Bostock on the right for Wednesday.
The contest remained tight. The fact that so far it not been a night for strikers to shine was reflected in the 62nd minute when both sides took off their leading scorer.
Jermaine Johnson replaced Madine and Jabo Ibehre took over from Charlie MacDonald.
Johnson supplied a left-wing cross that was headed just over the bar by O’Grady.
Suddenly Bostock sprang a break with a run from inside his own half, beating one man then seeing the correct pass to his right towards the unmarked Danny Batth but overhitting it slightly and driving the attacking defender too wide.
A spot of controversy erupted in the 84th minute: Reda Johnson and Stephen Glesson clashed on tbe touchline. Dons manager Karl Robinson tried to intervene in some way and Johnson went falling backwards to the floor.
The referee consulted the fourth official then sent Robinson off.
Wednesday stayed solid and there were no alarms this time in four minutes of added time as they pocketed a point.
Owls Match facts
MK DONS: Martin 7, Chicksen 6 (Smith 51, 6), MacKenzie 7, Flanagan 8, Lewington 7, O’Shea 7 (Powell 82), Gleeson 7, Williams 7, Bowditch 6, Chadwick 7, MacDonald 6 (Ibehre 62, 6). Unused subs: McLoughlin, Baldock.
OWLS: Bywater 7, Otsemobor 7, Batth 7, Llera 8, R Johnson 7, Buxton 7, Semedo 7, Prutton 7, Sedgwick 7 (Bostock 61, 7), O’Grady 7 (Morrison 89), Madine 6 (J Johnson 62, 6). n Unused subs: Weaver, Lines.
Goals: Chadwick (15), MacKenzie o.g. (27).
Bookings: Semedo (55), Flanagan (58), Lewington (73)