The Dons took the lead through Alan Bennett's first-half header, his first goal since joining on a free transfer at the beginning of the month, but they remain rooted to the foot of the table after Adebayo Akinfenwa's late penalty.
But since Wimbledon's 2-0 loss at Chesterfield on February 9, when Ardley took the unusual step of letting his players talk it out on their own in the dressing room afterwards, they have picked up four points from two games and have a renewed hope of avoiding the drop.
"There is an improvement, obviously we've had two games since and we've done well, we've got four points," said Dons boss Ardley.
"I don't think it was just the players though, I looked at myself - I always do - and we made sure the atmosphere was very positive over the past week or so going into the games and we've kept it going. There's a group of lads in there who are fighting for their lives, who are working their absolute socks off for us.
"At times the quality can be a little bit better, but given where we are in the league we'll take the effort, we'll take the energy and we'll take the desire and I'm confident that is going to be enough. The tough part is keeping the level of performance high and obviously we have got to make sure when we're not on-song we still know how to grind out results."
Bennett nodded home Chris Hussey's corner after 28 minutes but Akinfenwa slotted home his 17th goal of the season 15 minutes from time after Roy O'Donovan collided with Neil Sullivan in the area. But despite missing the chance to crank up the pressure on those occupying the automatic promotion places, Northampton boss Aidy Boothroyd was satisfied.
"I thought it was a brilliant game, an old-fashioned sort of game, it was like being back in the 1980s again," said Boothroyd. "It was two fully-committed teams, it was blood and thunder, there were challenges that were allowed to go but it all evens itself out.
"The two teams had a right good go at each other, there would have been plenty of teams that would have folded under that but we had a few surprises of our own and we could have won it in the end.
"We knew that we had to improve on our away form but we stood up to the challenge, we responded to them and generally I'm pleased with a point. All members of the squad put their whole heart into the performance and in the end, looking at the bigger picture, we won't be too far away come the end of the season."