Milton Keynes Dons 2 Walsall 1
Walsall crashed to a fourth successive away league defeat when a formation designed to frustrate the opposition failed to deliver the goods.
They operated with a back five, four in midfield - only two of whom are comfortable in that position - and only Matty Fryatt up front to take on the Dons defence by himself.
Although the opposition had lost only one of their previous ten matches, it seemed a rather negative line-up which was finally punished seven minutes from the end when the home side scored the winner.
Some of the travelling fans were not impressed but manager Paul Merson thought it worked " perfectly" and argued that, but for two glaring missed chances and a goalkeeping error, the Saddlers might have won.
"I am devastated, to be fair. Gutted, in fact," he said.
"I have told the lads if they keep playing like that they will win a lot more games."
Not if they continue to miss chances at one end and then hand out cheap goals at the other, they won't. It's been the same story in too many away defeats.
Walsall were presented with a great opportunity to win when Dons' star striker Izale McLeod suffered a knee injury from an Anthony Gerrard tackle and had to go off in the 33rd minute.
"You've done your job, Merson," yelled one angry Milton Keynes fan, as though McLeod had been deliberately targeted for tough treatment.
But instead of changing the system and being more positive, the Saddlers continued with the unfamiliar formation and ultimately paid the penalty.
McLeod had shown why so many scouts were at the match to watch him when he escaped the legion of Walsall defenders to head in a cross from Trent McClenahan in the fifth minute.
Eight minutes later French midfielder Eric Skora took a neat pass from Jorge Leit?o, held off a challenge and equalised with his second goal in two games on loan from Preston, to equalise.
Four minutes into the second half Walsall should have been in front. Chris Westwood's shot was brilliantly parried by Matt Baker and the rebound fell neatly to defender Ian Roper who shot straight at the grounded keeper.
Then, in the 64th minute, Skora released Leit?o but, from near the penalty spot, the Portuguese battler drove the ball too close to Baker who saved again.
You could see what was coming. With seven minutes left a foul by Gerrard outside the peanlty area proved costly. Gareth Edds hammered a low free kick through the defensive wall and, although the diving Joe Murphy saved it, he allowed the ball to slip from his grasp for Aaron Wilbraham to slide into the net.
Murphy, who has just signed an extended loan deal from Sunderland which means he will stay for another two months, apologised to his manager for that slip. Asked if he was happy with the system used, Merson said: "We came here first and foremost not to get beat, and we thought if we counterattacked and played that way we would frustrate them.
"I thought it worked perfectly and we kept them to long-range shots while we had clear-cut chances. But we have got to score. Even Danny Wilson (the Dons' manager) said to us 'How did you lose that?'"
Wilson told me: "They came with a 5-4-1 formation and they came not to be beaten. They are capable of scoring in counter-attacks. Paul Merson will say they had two bad misses but I saw them as two great saves, and I think we deserved that bit of luck".
In tomorrow night's home LDV Trophy match with Bournemouth, Walsall can recall right-back Craig Pead after a three- match suspension.
James Constable, the 21-year-old striker signed on loan from Chippenham Town, will be involved, probably as one of the substitutes.Only two goals have been scored by recognised strikers in the last eight league games, a worrying trend that needs arresting.