THE DONS were caught cold at the start of each half to make life difficult for themselves in the first of three vital relegation clashes at Kingsmeadow in a week.
Terry Brown's men got off to the worst possible start when Argyle's Onismor Bhasera reached a deep cross from the right to power a firm header into the corner with the game only 12 seconds old – Seb Brown getting a hand to the ball but unable to stop it going in.
And within five minutes of the second half, Nick Chadwick restored the lead for the visitors – who had allowed Jack Midson (pictured) to equalise just before the interval.
The Dons gave Bhasera room to play Chadwick into space on the left side of the area and after cutting inside to improve the angle, the striker buried a smart low shot to Brown's right.
It was precisely the type of switched-off defending the Dons boss was complaining about in the weekend defeat at Hereford.
It could have been even worse for the Dons midway through the half, when Chadwick was given the freedom of the six yard box, but skewed his header wide with Brown totally exposed.
But after that wake-up call, the Dons set about rebuilding the innings and even without fashioning clear-cut chances, they managed to pin Plymouth back and threatened to get back on level terms.
Jason Euell had a shot deflected wide and picked up a booking, but the home team's probings eventually bore fruit two minutes before the interval.
Sammy Moore – who made a quick recovery from a knee injury picked up at Hereford – hoisted a cross to the far post beyond keeper Jake Cole that Midson headed across the line before defender Darren Purse's clearance could affect the outcome.
That promised to give the Dons momentum, but Chadwick's goal had them chasing the game again and they were lucky when a thundering left footer from Luke Young crashed against the bar.
Billy Knott came off the bench to add spark up front and a bit of ball juggling with his head gave him space inside the box to drill low across the area – the ball begging to be touched home.
Midson then got on the end of a route one launch from deep, but his touch took the ball wide as the Dons battled to save a point. Luke Moore also came on to add more bite, but the game remained frustratingly out of reach.
Line up:Brown, Hatton (Luke Moore 700, Mitchell-King, McNaughton; Bush; Yussuff, Sammy Moore, Euell (Knott 58), Moncur; Midson, Jolley (Harrison 82). Subs not used: Johnson, Turner.