Cheltenham Town were edged out of this absorbing FA Cup second round meeting by the odd goal in seven at the Cherry Red Records Stadium.
It was enthralling stuff, a thoroughly entertaining cup occasion in south London but in the end, Michael Duff's side paid the price for a below-par performance in south London.
The 1988 cup winners led at the interval despite Alfie May's opener in the opening exchanges, scoring two goals of their own as half-time approached.
And the contest looked well and truly beyond reach after the hosts had stretched their advantage to three goals in the opening 20 minutes of the second period.
However late goals by Andy Williams and Ben Heneghan, an own goal, teed up an unlikely nail-biting finish.
AFC Wimbledon did have to ride their luck in the dramatic closing stages but all the damage had been done before the late rally which yielded the late chances to earn a replay.
The story of the Dons' return to Plough Lane is the stuff of football folklore and it was the Robins' first visit to this impressive new ground, backed by nearly 500 noisy travelling fans.
In the end a year that started with a famous evening against Manchester City ended with another memorable cup encounter, on this occasion frustrating Duff.
"I don't think we were very good today," he said afterwards.
"We could have got away with a result but they should have been out of sight. We can't let the last 10 mi nutes disguise the first 80. It was nowhere near good enough. Ulitmately we deserved to go out the cup.
"I can go in there and throw teacups and boot tables over but I'll know how disappointed they are on Tuesday night [against Cambridge United in League One]. We got what we deserved."
Duff made one change, restoring Callum Wright to his starting line-up with Kyle Vassell missing out through injury. Matty Blair returned after a two-game absence and replaced Dan Crowley at the interval. He joined Charlie Raglan on the bench.
May stretched his season's tally to nine with his second minute strike, racing onto Kyle Joseph's ball and cutting inside his marker before finding the inside of the right post with a fine finish.
The home side responded well and enjoyed the lion's share of possession after the goal, forcing Scott Flinders into a vital fingertip save to deny Anthony Hartigan from 25 yards.
It opened up for Liam Sercombe with half-hour played but the midfielder blasted his 18-yards effort into the travelling faithful. At the other end Flinders saved his side with a smart double stop.
However two goals in the final nine minutes of the first half put the home side in control at the break.
First Ayoub Assal raced onto a threaded ball and beat Flinders from 18 yards. Then Luke McCormick crashed a shot against the angle of the woodwork and it fell kindly for Ollie Palmer, who did the rest from close range.
Duff's side were indebted to a smart save by Flinders moments after the restart, parrying Assal's glancing header to safety.
But Assal doubled his account with 55 minutes on the clock, this beating the Cheltenham number one with a similar effort to extend the lead.
Next Palmer added his second, taking advantage of some sloppy defensive play to curl a lovely effort into the top right-hand corner of Flinders' goal from the angle of the box.
That seemed to be that, and Duff made a triple change with 28 minutes remaining replacing Sean Long (with Raglan), Joseph (Williams) and May (Norton).
It was Williams that reduced arrears 12 minutes later before a calamitous moment in the Wimbledon defence saw Ben Heneghan score an mown goal, failing to deal with Flinders' long punt down field to set up a tense final 10 minutes.
There was plenty of late drama with Blair and Pollock going so close, both denied a late leveller by the Dons goalkeeper Nik Tzanev.
There was a final chance when Hussey sent in a corner from the right deep into injury time but Ellis Chapman shaved the upright with an effort at the back post.
AFC WIMBLEDON (4-2-3-1): Tzanev; Osew (Lawrence 86), Heneghan, Csoka, Guinness-Walker; Hartigan (Marsh 69), Woodyard (c); Assal (Kaja 69), Palmer (Pressley 69), Rudoni; McCormick. Subs not used: Oualah, Chislett, Robinson, Mebude, Jenkins.
CHELTENHAM TOWN (4-2-3-1): Flinders; Horton, Long (c) (Raglan 62), Pollock, Hussey; Sercombe, Chapman; Crowley (Blair 46), May (Norton 62), Wright (Barkers 72); Joseph (Williams 62). Subs not used: Evans (Gk), Armitage.
REFEREE: A Young
ATTENDANCE: 4,322 (469 from Cheltenham)