Transient interactions in which binding partners retain substantial conformational disorder play an essential role in regulating biological networks, challenging the expectation that specificity demands structurally defined and unambiguous molecular interactions. The monoclonal antibody 6D8 recognises a completely conserved continuous nine-residue epitope within the intrinsically disordered malaria antigen, MSP2, yet it has different affinities for the two allelic forms of this antigen. NMR chemical shift perturbations, relaxation rates and paramagnetic relaxation enhancements reveal the presence of transient interactions involving polymorphic residues immediately C-terminal to the structurally defined epitope. A combination of these experimental data with molecular dynamics simulations shows clearly that the polymorphic C-terminal extension engages in multiple transient interactions distributed across much of the accessible antibody surface. These interactions are determined more by topographical features of the antibody surface than by sequence-specific interactions. Thus, specificity arises as a consequence of subtle differences in what are highly dynamic and essentially non-specific interactions.