Rochdale boss Brian Barry-Murphy admitted his players were heartbroken after conceding an equaliser in the seventh minute of injury time in their 3-3 draw with AFC Wimbledon.
Wimbledon’s Joe Pigott intervened at the death in the battle between the two relegation rivals after goals from Jake Beesley, Gabriel Osho and Jimmy Keohane had put Dale ahead.
The result at Plough Lane leaves the visitors four points from safety with two games remaining and Barry-Murphy admitted the final scoreline was tough to accept.
“In the moment, it’s very difficult to take. The lads put so much into it, and they’ll be heartbroken. But as difficult as it seems, these are the moments that define your career,” he said.
“I’m so proud of the lads and thank them for their efforts on behalf of the club. The way they played the game, and the courage that they showed – it was everything that I wanted from them.
“We could have scored more. I had a feeling we needed to score more because Wimbledon are a dangerous team that put a lot of balls in the box. This season has seen loads of ups and downs.
“The only thing I can ask from the group is that they keep bouncing back. There are great characters in the dressing room, and we’ve made unbelievable progress.
“Our players have been improving all throughout the season and there was everything in that performance. I wasn’t interested in holding on (at 2-0).
“I’ve seen a lot of Wimbledon and I know they’re dangerous and they’ve got one of the best strikers in the league. I thought we could have scored four or five.”
Beesley put Rochdale ahead after 41 minutes before Osho doubled the visitors’ lead, only for two quickfire goals from Jack Rudoni and Ollie Palmer to level the scores.
Keohane put Dale back in front after 73 minutes but Pigott’s late heroics mean Dons need one more point to secure League One safety – although manager Mark Robinson still rued a sloppy display.
“The manner of their goals is so poor, and it’s been one of our real strengths so it’s disappointing. We were so far off it, I can’t believe. There’s so much wrong,” he said.
“They’ll be certainly looking at it tomorrow and presenting to us. It’s players not taking responsibility and doing their job. It’s complete disappointment for me.
“It’s the first time I’ve felt like that since Hull. Saturday we were very, very good but you can’t help but feel disappointment at the goals. They’ve gone away from what we’ve been so good at.
“They were excellent. They nicked too many second balls off us, even though we were dominant in that first half hour and must have had six or seven corners before they got in our half.
“We’ve had enough chances in the first 25 minutes, got in good areas and should have been in front. Coming back into the game can’t overshadow the goals we’ve conceded.”