OXFORD United missed the chance to go top of Sky Bet League One as AFC Wimbledon staged a second-half comeback at Plough Lane.

Mark Sykes put the U’s ahead on the stroke of half-time with his first goal since the 2019/20 play-off final, profiting from a slip in the Dons defence.

But United again failed to defend set-pieces, as Will Nightingale’s aerial presence proved too much to handle.

Jack Rudoni turned home the centre back’s header from a free-kick early in the second half, before Nightingale nodded a corner into the net 11 minutes from time.

Rudoni added his second on the break 120 seconds later to give Wimbledon their first win at Plough Lane since full crowds returned, in a defeat that was similar to United's 2-1 loss here in April.

It leaves the U's still searching for their first away league victory of the campaign, while they fall four places to seventh.

Karl Robinson reverted to the side that started last Saturday’s win over Lincoln City, other than one enforced change.

Gavin Whyte is away with Northern Ireland so a fit-again Ryan Williams replaced him on the left wing, while Marcus McGuane’s injury meant substitute Herbie Kane was included in a league squad for the first time with United.

Robinson came out to applaud the U’s fans at kick-off and was greeted by a chorus of boos from the home fans, owing to his time in charge of bitter rivals MK Dons.

They quickly dissipated into a minute’s silence for Wimbledon supporter Jack Lonergan, who passed away last month, before the game began at a frantic pace.

Matty Taylor brilliantly hooked clear from inside his own six-yard box after 14 minutes, but he really should have put the U’s 1-0 up seconds later.

United counter-attacked and James Henry’s cross was perfect for the striker, who headed wide from six yards out at the far post.

Nesta Guinness-Walker then half-volleyed straight at Jack Stevens from a promising position, following good work from Dapo Mebude.

Both teams were counter-attacking at pace but lacking quality at key moments, with Henry poking wide and Sykes shooting straight at Nik Tzanev on the half-hour.

It was a similar story at the other end moments later when Mebude had time to shoot but only found the gloves of Stevens, before Guinness-Walker earned the game’s first booking for bringing down Williams on the break.

The half looked destined to end goalless as the fourth official signalled one minute of added time, but within a flash United were ahead.

Sykes caught Anthony Hartigan in possession on the edge of the box and, as the home fans appealed for a foul, advanced to slip the ball past Tzanev.

It was only the 24-year-old’s fourth goal in almost 100 United appearances and two of those have come against Wimbledon.

Hartigan shot wide of the far post early in the second half as he tried to atone for the goal, but soon he had contributed to the equaliser.

The midfielder’s deep free-kick was met by the unmarked Nightingale and the centre back headed past Stevens, with Rudoni making sure on the line.

United almost responded instantly as Sykes burst into the box and cut back a cross, which fell to Williams.

The winger made space for himself six yards out, but there were enough Wimbledon bodies in the way to block the shot.

The tempo and the noise went up another notch after the goal, before Robinson brought on Nathan Holland for Williams.

Both sides went close in quick succession, with Cameron Brannagan sending Anthony Forde’s cross inches wide of the far post and Nightingale just failing to get enough on a Hartigan corner.

Wimbledon brought Ethan Chislett and Ayoub Assal on for Luke McCormick and Mebude and United matched the double change.

Sam Winnall and Kane replaced Sykes and Alex Gorrin as the U’s switched to a 4-4-2 diamond, with the new signing at the base and Holland behind the two strikers.

Holland should have put United back in front when he was sent clear by Henry’s brilliant reverse pass, but the West Ham loanee took too long and Nightingale got back to tackle.

He was quickly made to pay as the hosts struck two killer goals in three minutes.

Their second came from another set-piece 11 minutes from time, as Nightingale met Hartigan’s corner to ensure United conceded from yet another set-piece.

The U’s looked to restore parity, but left themselves open and Wimbledon struck on the break.

Assal raced forward and ducked inside Moore, before laying the ball into the path of Rudoni to calmly put away his second of the game.

United won a succession of corners as they looked for an unlikely comeback, but Tzanev’s save from a long-range Brannagan effort was their only late chance of note.

AFC Wimbledon (4-4-2): Tzanev, Lawrence, Heneghan, Nightingale, Guinness-Walker, Rudoni, Woodyard, Hartigan, McCormick (Chislett 69), Palmer (Pressley 79), Mebude (Assal 69).

Unused subs: Oualah, Alexander, Marsh, Kalambayi.

Booked: Guinness-Walker, Heneghan, Chislett.

Oxford United (4-3-3): Stevens, Forde, Moore, Thorniley, Seddon, Henry, Gorrin (Kane 72), Brannagan, Sykes (Winnall 72), Taylor, Williams (Holland 66).

Unused subs: Eastwood, McNally, Mousinho, Agyei.

Booked: Seddon.

Referee: Brett Huxtable (Devon).

Attendance: TBC.