A spirited late fight from Rochdale wasn't enough as Sheffield United took all three points away from Spotland on Tuesday night as they ran out 2-1 winners.
Marc McNulty opened the scoring for the Blades in the first half before Josh Lillis misjudged a John Brayford long range drive, allowing the visitors to open up a two goal advantage.
Jack O'Connell headed Dale back into the game with 15 minutes of the match remaining, but Sheffield United were able to hold on for the victory.
Manager Keith Hill made three changes to the side that started against Chesterfield at the weekend. Fabien Brandy was made his debut, while Ashley Eastham and Bastien Hery also started. Joe Bunney dropped to the bench, while Stephen Dawson and Olly Lancashire missed out altogether through injury.
It was Sheffield United who found the opening goal after 20 minutes with the first real chance of the game. Bob Harris played a fantastic through ball from left back which split the Dale defence in half, releasing McNulty inside the box. He looked up and finished coolly from an angle, curling the ball into the far top corner past Lillis.
Ian Henderson came close to finding the equaliser after getting on the end of a Michael Rose free-kick. Rose whipped the ball in towards the near post from the left hand side and found the run of Henderson, whose flick sent the ball towards goal. There wasn't enough power on it to beat Iain Turner in the Blades goal and he collected comfortably.
Another Rose free kick from the left saw Dale come even closer to levelling the score. He fizzed the ball low into the melee of bodies on the edge of the six yard box which deflected off a couple of legs before being hooked clear by the defender on the goal line.
HALF TIME: Rochdale 0-1 Sheffield United
Former Daley Matty Done made his way onto the pitch at half time to a smattering of applause as he entered the fray in place of McNulty.
There was another free kick and another chance for Dale as Rose this time tried his luck from 35 yards out. His fierce drive took a deflection off the end of the wall, which took the pace off the ball and it turned into a comfortable save for Turner, who dived to his right.
But it was Sheffield United who went on to double their advantage as John Brayford found the back of the net with a long range effort that should have been claimed comfortably by Josh Lillis.
Brayford pushed forward into the Dale half before trying his luck with an effort from distance. It was misjudged by Lillis as the ball skipped off the ground and past the Dale 'keepers grasp.
With quarter of an hour to go, Dale found a route back into the game as Jack O'Connell headed home from close range during a spell on top. Joe Rafferty had twist and turned on the right wing to work space to pick out a cross, with which he found O'Connell unmarked at the back post who powered his header past Turner.
A late chance fell to Nyall Bell as he looked to find his first professional goal for Dale. He took the ball down superbly on his chest before firing off a shot at goal but Turner got across well to hold onto Bell's effort.
FULL TIME: Rochdale 1-2 Sheffield United
Report by Rob Anderson