Adhesive bonding of polyethylene gas pipelines is receiving increasing attention as a replacement for traditional electrofusion welding due to its potential to produce rapid and low-cost joints with structural integrity and pressure tight sealing. In this paper a mode-dependent cohesive zone model for the simulation of adhesively bonded medium density polyethylene (MDPE) pipeline joints is directly determined by following three consecutive steps. Firstly, the bulk stress–strain response of the MDPE adherend was obtained via tensile testing to provide a multi-linear numerical approximation to simulate the plastic deformation of the material. Secondly, the mechanical responses of double cantilever beam and end-notched flexure test specimens were utilised for the direct extraction of the energy release rate and cohesive strength of the adhesive in failure mode I and II. Finally, these material properties were used as inputs to develop a finite element model using a cohesive zone model with triangular shape traction separation law. The developed model was successfully validated against experimental tensile lap-shear test results and was able to accurately predict the strength of adhesively-bonded MPDE pipeline joints with a maximum variation of <3%.