OXFORD United progressed to the Checkatrade Trophy knockout stages despite losing a madcap final group game at home to Milton Keynes Dons.

Ryan Seager’s deflected shot won the game for the visitors 4-3, on a night where neither defence emerged with much credit in front of just 1,182 spectators – United’s third lowest home gate of all time.

But Stevenage’s victory in the other Southern Group G match ensured Pep Clotet’s side finished runners-up on goal difference to reach the second round.

Jack Payne’s quickfire double saw United come from behind to lead after Brandon Thomas-Asante’s early opener.

Gboly Ariyibi’s brace gave Dons a 3-2 lead at the break, before Rob Hall levelled.

Seager quickly restored the advantage to send the Dons through as group winners, but United will join them in round two next month.

United, who made four changes, had been shot-shy in their previous two games, but looked to put that right early on.

Dons goalkeeper Wieger Sietsma smothered Joe Rothwell’s shot and made an outstanding stop a minute later to keep out Jon Obika’s powerful effort, after the striker had been put through by Xemi’s pass.

But United then fell asleep – and fell behind.

Simon Eastwood tipped over Ed Upson’s deflected shot, but the midfielder’s quickly-taken corner caught the hosts napping and allowed Thomas-Asante to score from close range.

United looked to hit back immediately, with Sietsma turning Payne’s shot round his far post, which was then struck by Obika’s header from the resulting set piece.

The hosts breathed a sigh of relief when Christian Ribeiro’s challenge on Ariyibi in the penalty area went unpunished.

They made the most of the let-off, with Payne scoring twice in five minutes to turn the game on its head.

First, the Huddersfield Town loanee exploited a slip by Scott Wootton and fired low into the net from 15 yards.

Payne struck his fifth goal of the season from the penalty spot, after Rob Hall had been brought down by Dean Lewington.

But United’s wobbly rearguard was exploited again to ensure they trailed at the break.

Ariyibi, who grew up in Oxford, was given space on the edge of the box to cushion a low finish which skidded in on the wet surface.

The winger then cashed in on some dreadful defending, capped off by a soft challenge from Curtis Nelson, to slot in a finish under an exposed Eastwood.

The start of the second half could not match the eventful opening 45 minutes, but the game burst into life again after an hour.

After Eastwood made a smart save to keep out Upson’s free-kick, United promptly went up the other end for Hall to equalise with a curling shot.

But parity was brief. Neat interplay on the edge of the box between Robbie Muirhead and Seager saw the latter find the net via a deflection which left Eastwood helpless.

United pushed hard in the final 20 minutes, but could not make their pressure count.

Oxford Utd (4-2-3-1): Eastwood, Tiendalli, Nelson, Mousinho, Ribeiro (Carroll 60), Xemi, Ruffels, Hall, Payne (Henry 68), Rothwell, Obika.

Unused subs: Shearer, Martin, Baptiste, Mowatt, Thomas.

Booked: Xemi.

MK Dons (4-1-4-1): Sietsma, Williams, Wootton (Logan 79), Ebanks-Landell, Lewington, Upson, Thomas-Asante, Ariyibi, Nesbitt (Pawlett 61), Muirhead, Seager (Agard 67).

Unused subs: Nicholls, Kasumu, Rasulo, Aneke.

Booked: Thomas-Asante, Wootton, Ariyibi.

Referee: Christopher Sarginson (Staffordshire).

Attendance: 1,182 (101 visitors).