Jake Jervis came back into the starting line up at the expense of Paul Thirlwell for the always difficult trip to MK Dons with Greg Abbott looking to build on the impressive giant-killing exploits against Ipswich Town in midweek.
But a slow start from United handed the initiative to the Dons and they capitalised with a goal either side of the break to claim the points on what was a disappointing day out for the travelling Blue Army.
"When you come to a place like this you need to work hard and you need things to go your way," manager Greg Abbott said. "I thought we were poor in the first half and we know we have to be better than we were.
"We improved in the second half but we probably needed a goal. They just had that little bit more quality on the day and we come away feeling very disappointed."
MK Dons started on the front foot and a run from Bowditch took him to the bye line. His low cross took Collin out of the game but Edwards was on hand to scoop the ball clear.
Edwards had to step in again to stop a cross-shot from Chicksen from troubling the target as the white shirts threw men forward, but the Carlisle defences were breached with just six minutes on the clock when Bowditch nicked the ball off Murphy. Ryan Lowe swooped to sweep it into the back of the net but his celebrations were cut short as the assistant referee raised his flag.
United got forward with purpose for the first time on 10 minutes when McGovern found a bit of space on the edge of the area. His first time shot with the outside of his right boot fizzed just over the bar.
MK Dons picked up the pace once again and they took the lead just 60 seconds later when a poor clearance from the keeper allowed Chadwick and Powell to cause havoc. The former Red Devil wrapped his boot round a difficult volley and rattled the ball into the corner of the net.
Home tails were up and they attacked again down the left when Lowe pulled wide. He cut back inside and forced a diving save from Collin as he went for an instinctive toe poke.
A scramble followed in the Carlisle box with Bowditch and Chadwick trying to make their connections count and a cross from Powell after a neat link-up with Otsemobor had to be touched over the bar as it took a deflection off Chris Chantler.
Chadwick stayed alert as United struggled to get out of their own half and he nicked the ball off Collin when he raced out of his box just before the half hour. Gleeson pulled clear and the big keeper made amends when he spread himself to beat the powerful thunderbolt away.
Brad Potts had to bide his time when he found himself two against one with Powell making himself the extra man. His tackle had to be timed right and he completed what was a vital intervention.
Disaster struck in midfield just before half time when Berrett fell awkwardly to the ground following an aerial challenge. He complained of double vision and the decision was taken to replace him immediately rather than take any further risks.
Carlisle were opened up on 38 minutes when Powell bustled his way to the bye line and Bowditch gambled with a run to the near post. He was under pressure from Potts and he took his eye off the ball when it appeared all he needed was a connection.
Jervis got into a good position to go for an overhead kick from an Edwards nod down as United tried their luck from a set piece but Martin stood strong and grasped it on the line.
"The manager wasn't happy at half time, and rightly so," Jervis said. "It just wasn't good enough and the message was that we had to work harder. We did that but it didn't go for us in front of goal. We're obviously disappointed but there's a determination for us to put it right on Tuesday now."
The half time team talk sent the Cumbrians out with fire in their stomachs and a quick break from Cadamarteri brought Robson into play. He picked Jervis out in the box and the big striker tried to spin and shoot when the lay off for Noble was probably the better option.
A dinked cross from Chantler gave the Dons something to think about as Jervis flicked it on for Cadamarteri. The front man shaped to volley the ball but lost his footing as it dropped in front of him and the moment was gone.
Just as it appeared that Carlisle were gaining the upper hand a break from deep, with just a hint of offside included, doubled the lead for the Dons. Powell was first to go clear, only to be thwarted by a parried save from Collin, but Ryan Lowe was in attendance on the follow up. He kept his cool and calmly stroked it past the man on the line to make it a very difficult day for the visitors.
Cadamarteri was the man most likely to make things happen up front and a spinning shot off the top of his boot caused Martin to fumble at his near post. And the striker went even closer with five minutes left to play when he beat two and ghosted into the box. The Dons keeper got just enough of a fingertip on it to tickle it past his post.
The home side ended the game on top and veteran midfielder Jimmy Bullard showed his skill when he twisted and turned inside the Carlisle box. He fed it back for fellow substitute Jay O'Shea to have a go and he wheeled away in disappointment as it arrowed narrowly wide.
Otsemobor then thought he'd scored when he placed a side-footed volley through a ruck of bodies. The crowd celebrated as it hit the side netting with everyone thinking it had gone in.
"I don't think we deserved anything today and that's never a nice thing to have to say," Greg Abbott concluded. "We have a group in there who aren't happy with what they've done and that's a good thing for us. It means they know they have to improve. This is one which has gone now. We learn from it and make sure we get the right kind of response on Monday and Tuesday."
MK Dons - Chadwick (11), Lowe (66)
MK Dons - Martin, Otsemobor, Mackenzie, Williams, Gleeson, Potter, Bowditch, Chicksen, Lowe (MacDonald 73), Powell (O'Shea 83), Chadwick (Bullard 73). Subs - McLoughlin, Kay.
Carlisle United - Collin, Potts, Edwards, Murphy, Chantler, McGovern (Symington 74), Noble, Berrett (Thirlwell 36), Robson (O'Halloran 66), Cadamarteri, Jervis. Subs - Gillespie, Simek, Madden, Beck.
Ref: Oliver Langford
Attendance: 7,227 (381 away fans)