The Honest Men remain unbeaten after five games for the first time since 2008 after drawing with Stenhousemuir at Ochilview.
With Forrest and Pope suspended and Martyn Campbell out through injury, Mark Roberts was down to the bare bones, but, as has been the case already this season, Ayr fought against the odds.
The manager fielded himself on the left wing with McLaughlin and Donald also playing out of position.
Kevin Kyle was a surprise inclusion in the match day squad, starting the game on the bench as a trialist.
Despite the lack of numbers, Roberts fielded a team that competed against on form Stenhousemuir and could feel aggrieved at not collecting all three points.
In what was an even first half, Ayr stormed forward and went close to scoring through shots from McGowan and Malcolm.
The home side looked threatening on the counter-attack though with towering centre back Ross Smith seeing a header fly over the bar.
After 42 minutes, Ayr took the lead through a clinical strike from Mark Roberts.
A neat passing move ended with Craig Malcolm passing the ball to his manager who made no mistake in placing the ball into the corner of the goal from the edge of the box.
The goal was a landmark for the Ayr boss who became the second oldest goalscorer in the club’s history, behind Darren Henderson.
At the start of the second half Ayr looked to continue from where they left off and dominated the early stages of the second period but couldn’t score another goal.
Their inability to notch a second was to come back to haunt them as Stenhousemuir poured forward in desperate search for an equaliser.
Centre back, Smith saw a header cleared off the goal line before McKinley skewed his shot wide from a promising position.
After 70 minutes, the home side levelled the scores in controversial fashion.
A long ball caught the Ayr defence off guard allowing Darren Smith to find himself one on one with David Hutton.
The winger then made no mistake in slotting home despite strong claims from Ayr that the Stenny player had strayed offside
As soon as the ball hit the net, Kevin Kyle was told to pull on his Ayr strip for the first time, replacing Roberts.
The colossal forward held the ball up well but ultimately couldn’t help Ayr succeed in their search for that elusive second goal.
With the last kick of the ball, Darren Smith had a chance to double his goal tally and give the home side a victory but David Hutton was able to pull off a magnificent save.
After the match, Mark Roberts said: “I was disappointed we didn’t win once again.
“They only troubled us with set pieces and free kicks but scored through a goal which I’ve been told was two or three yards offside.
“We had a make shift team on the park and I played on the wing which I decided to do so I could help the younger boys.
“I was happy to score after what was a great passing move. I’ve always got goals in me and I’ll always be a threat.
“I celebrated the goal well because I was laughing at the fact I’m so old and still scoring.
“I had Kevin Kyle on the bench as I spoke to him on the morning of the game and decided it would be good for him to play.
“His hold up play and movement is different class.
“I played a lot of people out of position but they all did very well.
“We’ve collected nine points from five games which I’m disappointed with as we should be on the 13 mark.”
Stenhousemuir : C Smith, Devlin,R Smith, McMillan (Malone 63), McKinlay, Ferguson, Lynch (Anderson 54), D Smith, Dickson, Gemmell, Higgins (McNeil 70).
Subs Not Used: Douglas, Shaw.
Booked : Ferguson.
Goals : Darren Smith 71.
Ayr : Hutton, Hunter, Lithgow, McLaughlin, Donald, McGowan, Crawford, Marenghi, Roberts (Kevin Kyle-Trialist, 73), Moffat, Malcolm.
Subs Not Used : McArthur, Wardrobe, Shankland, Longridge, Wyllie, Muir.
Booked : Malcolm, Lithgow, Crawford, Marenghi, McLaughlin.
Goals : Roberts 42.
Att : 657
Ayr fans: 267
Ref : Brines
By Michael Lamont