Fleetwood failed to score for only the third time this term as they played out a frustrating 0-0 draw with AFC Wimbledon.
Wimbledon succeeded in a task that only Bury and Rochdale have done in the league this term as they stopped Fleetwood finding the net.
The result saw Town slip out of the top two as they were leapfrogged by Bolton who fought back from 1-0 down to beat Northampton 2-1 and climb into second spot.
Town head coach Uwe Rosler made two changes to the side that beat Walsall 1-0 on Tuesday night with Ash Eastham recovered from injury to replace Godswill Ekpolo on the right of the back three with top scorer Ball in for Cameron Brannagan.
Keeper Matty Urwin was recalled from his loan spell at Telford to start on the bench with Chris Neal injured.
It was a scrappy start with Wimbledon pumping balls up towards big forward Tom Elliott with Fleetwood setting up to play their usual fast-flowing counter-attacking football.
Town nearly took the lead in the 11th minute when Kyle Dempsey won the ball in Wimbledon’s half, rolled the ball to Ball who released Hunter to run one-on-one but James Shea pulled off a fine diving save to thwart the youngster.
Dean Parrett pounced on Cairns’ weak kick and smashed the ball back towards goal but fortunately for Town the keeper got back to the middle of his goal to stop the strike.
The referee harshly ruled Bolger had impeded Tyrone Barnett but the giant defender was on hand to clear the subsequent set-piece but only into the path of Reeves who sliced the ball over the bar.
Grant pounced on a loose pass in the Dons half and sprinted towards goal before he was taken out by Will Nightingale who was rightly booked for the foul.
Schwabl whipped a ball in from the right but the ball just would not fall for on-running forward Ball at the back post with McLaughlin ending a storming run with a fierce effort that just flew over the bar.
Fleetwood ended the half strongly with another piece of individual brilliance from Ball nearly breaking the deadlock as he cut back from the back line to just curl the ball round the left stick and a sublime team move engineered by Bell on the left wing saw Grant’s first time effort skim over the bar.
Town started the second as they ended the first with McLaughlin nodding an Amari’i Bell left wing cross straight at Shea.
Rosler shook things up just after the hour mark with Hunter making way for Brannagan who slotted into the left midfield role with Grant pushing up to partner Ball up top.
AFC Wimbledon nearly took the lead against the run of play in the 72nd minute after a rare defensive mix-up from Cian Bolger and Ash Eastham saw the ball fall sweetly for Andy Barcham but his snap-shot flew over the bar.
Rosler threw Nirennold on for Dempsey who had taken a battering in the middle of the park with McLaughlin moving up into a right midfield role as Nirennold slotted in at right wing-back.
But it was the visitors who finished strongly with Andy Barcham wasting two good chances as the game drew to an end.
Fleetwood: Cairns, McLaughlin, Eastham, Bolger, Davies, Bell, Dempsey (Nirennold, 78), Schwabl, Grant, Hunter (Brannagan, 62), Ball. Subs not used: Urwin, Glendon, Godswill, Reid, Maguire.
AFC Wimbledon: Shea, Bulman, Nightingale, Robinson, Francomb, Reeves, Elliott, Barcham, Parrett (Meades, 69), Barnett (Taylor, 69), Charles. Subs not used: McDonnell, Poleon, Fitzpatrick, Kelly, Egan.
Referee: M Brown.