United faced another of the division's serious promotion contenders on Saturday afternoon when they played host to MK Dons at Brunton Park.
The Blues had over 10,000 fans in the stadium as the city and the region responded to a rallying call to get behind the team, and the atmosphere was expectant as the players walked out to take to the pitch.
Bad news came ahead of kick off with Danny Grainger and Tom Parkes sidelined through injury, following a tough midweek away game, and Jamie Devitt was ruled out as he served the first of a three-game suspension having been shown a red card during the first half at Gresty Road.
United passed the ball well through the opening exchanges with every player getting involved to keep it moving. But it was the visitors who earned the first corner when Grant went for safety first as he put a long ball over the top behind. That was cleared as far as Hesketh but he sliced a wild volley high into the Warwick Road End.
The Blues had the away side stretched when Scougall beat the offside trap to get to a ball over the back line. His cut back found Hope, but a shot on the spin was blocked. United stayed forward and good footwork from O'Hare saw him beat his man before sliding a pass into the mix. Lewington shielded it, but Scougall won it back and fed it to Liddle. His cross was met by Hope but the downward header bounced just past the far post.
MK Dons broke with a neat pass from Lewington which was chested down by McGrandles on the edge of the box. The ball spun into space and a second touch was followed by a third before the midfielder left Collin with no chance as he crunched the ball into the bottom corner.
It was a blow, but the Blues dealt with it as a superb passing move released Scougall with just Cargill to beat. He dropped a shoulder and ghosted past his man, but was then felled just as he shaped to shoot. Scougall dusted himself off before expertly slotting the spot kick past the dive of Moore.
United came again as they stole possession from the restart and O'Hare was unlucky when he found another great touch to create space from nothing. He went for glory but Walsh stepped across to get himself in the way.
More excellent football from United saw Hope race down the left flank as he exchanged passes with Scougall and O'Hare. Slater came forward in support and he found himself with a gap to exploit as he looked for options. His shot had power but it was always heading wide.
Carlisle didn't get it all their own way and Miller was needed as Martin stole possession from Slater before powering on behind the back line. His low cross just needed a touch but it was the stand-in left back who showed first to hook it away.
A swirling cross from Hesketh brought a moment of panic as it dropped out of the sky onto the top of the bar, but United had a good moment of their own when Thomas cut inside to spread the ball from left to right. Hope took it down, stepped away from his man and put his laces through the ball as he tried to squeeze it through. Walsh was once again the defender to make the block.
Thomas weaved his way through two challenges to try his luck from distance in time added on for the first half, but it took a deflection and went behind for a corner. Liddle got onto that but his header from deep was put behind, and that was that for what had been a very entertaining first period.
A determined run from Thomas earned a corner as his cross was put behind just after the break, but the delivery was too deep and cleared just as Gerrard tried to get it under control.
Collin had to concentrate for a delivery at the other end when McGrandles drifted in from wide to shoot from an angle. The keeper dived low and showed excellent hands.
Both sides probed with some very considered football played and it was a swift counter from Slater, Etuhu and Scougall which brought the first chance of the second half. Thomas cut inside when it was played out to him but his shot was blocked before Moore could be tested.
A snapshot from Hesketh at the other end came through bodies for Collin to deal with, but he stood firm and gathered it in well. Scougall did the same at the other end when he got on the end of an Etuhu pass, but it was Moore who was well positioned this time.
Great defending from Grant saw him head a free kick delivery from Lewington out of the danger area, and Carlisle kept their concentration to cope with a testing run of corners that followed.
The MK Dons second goal came from absolutely nowhere as a hopeful ball across the face of the box somehow squirmed under Liddle's boot. Jake Hesketh was perfectly placed to latch onto it and he made no mistake with a well taken finish.
Collin did well to make point blank saves from Aneke as Hesketh looked to turn provider, but the game was all-but sealed as a contest when the visitors carved Carlisle wide open with one-touch passes from Gilbey and Hesketh. Gilbey could have shot, but he had the presence of mind to feed it back for Agard to poke into a gaping and empty net.
Defender Peter Grant went close with a header from a Scougall corner late in the day, and Hallam Hope gave his side a huge boost when he ignored appeals for a penalty as O'Hare was dragged to the floor beside him. He kept his eye on the ball and left Moore with no chance as he bounced it off the ground and over the line.
A deflected Gary Miller cross brought a corner deep into time added on but, even with Collin sent forward, they couldn't find a way through and the Dons held on to take the points.
Carlisle United - Scougall (14 pen), Hope (90)
MK Dons - McGrandles (11), Hesketh (69), Agard (76)
MK Dons - Cargill (13), McGrandles (60), Aneke (71), Moore (81)
Carlisle United - Collin, Liddle, Gerrard, Grant, Miller, Thomas (McCarron 66), Slater (Cullen 66), Etuhu, O'Hare, Scougall (Kennedy 81), Hope. Subs - Gray, Jones, Glendon, Simpson.
MK Dons - Moore, Lewington, Walsh, Cisse, Gilbey (Walker 88), Hesketh, Agard (Wheeler 80), Martin, McGrandles, Brittain, Cargill (Aneke 46). Subs - Nicholls, Baudry, Houghton, Harley.
Referee - Mr Peter Wright
Attendance - 10,459 (329 away fans)