Dale were beaten 3-2 at the Banks’s Stadium despite a second half fight-back after being three down at half-time.
Dale were stunned by three goals in nine first half minutes. James O’Connor headed home from a corner, Anthony Forde doubled the home side’s lead, before Jordy Hiwula made it three.
Peter Vincenti got the first back with a volley from close range, before Oliver Lancashire turned in from close range for the second, but Dale just couldn’t find an equaliser.
Keith Hill made two changes to the side that started the 2-2 draw at Coventry City ten days ago. Calvin Andrew and Andy Cannon came in for Rhys Bennett and Joe Rafferty.
A couple of efforts were exchanged early doors, with Forde for the home side and Andrew for Dale having left foot shots over the crossbar.
What followed for Dale was a disastrous nine minutes in which three goals were conceded.
The opener came from a corner kick on the Dale left. Forde crossed and found the head of O’Connor who put the home side one up via a deflection.
Three minutes later and Josh Lillis had to make a stop at his near post after Hiwula showed quick feet to get a shot away.
However, the Dale stopper was beaten in the 19th minute after a fantastic through ball from Romaine Sawyers. He played a curling ball inside Scott Tanser allowing Forde to run on to it and finish calmly at the near post.
Dale were all at sea and the goal flurry was complete three minutes later. Ben Purkiss sent a low ball across the 18 yard line, Adam Chambers got a touch to send it forward, and Hiwula was there on the edge of the six yard box to fire past Lillis.
Keith Hill made an instant decision to make a double substitution. Tanser and Callum Camps came off for Joe Bunney and Jack O’Connell, making his first start of his second loan spell of the season. Lancashire moved in front of the back four.
The changes allowed to Dale to get a foot in the game, and had the best of the chances before half time.
Ian Henderson had a good opportunity to turn home but couldn’t make contact with a low cross from the left.
Cannon almost got lucky with a cross four minutes before the break, but Richard O’Donnell managed to palm it out before it was cleared for a corner.
The home stopper had to make a great save in the final minute of the half. Vincenti kept the ball alive and crossed for Andrew, whose header looked goal-bound before O’Donnell stuck out an arm to turn it over the bar for a corner.
Dale would need a unbelievable second half performance if they were to turn the game around, and they did start on the front foot, resulting in one of three goals being clawed back ten minutes in.
Cannon made a great tackle on the right touchline, and Henderson drove forward and picked out Vincenti. His shot was blocked but fell back to him, and he struck a sweet volley past O’Donnell.
It gave the players and the 183 travelling fans hope of a comeback, and eight minutes later Dale clawed a second goal back.
A corner was cleared and put back in at the second attempt by Dawson. Vincenti leapt highest and forced O’Donnell into a save, but the ball only came as far as Eastham who hammered it back in, with Lancashire getting the final touch.
Keith Hill’s men had their tails up and looked determined to get the equaliser. Jamie Allen had a shot from distance which was comfortable for the home ‘keeper, before Lancashire also tested him from range which he didn’t deal with quite as well, but Andrew was offside on the follow up.
With fifteen minutes to go Allen was replaced by Joel Logan after going down with a knock. Dale were seeing plenty of the ball in the Walsall half but couldn’t fashion out a clear cut opportunity as the game entered the final ten minutes.
Andy Taylor had an effort for the home side as they found space in the Dale half but hit a weak effort wide.
There were four minutes of added time to play as Dale threw everyone forward. Andrew had a glancing header just over the bar, but that was about it as the home side ran the clock down well, just creeping over the line despite an excellent fight-back from Dale.