Calvin Andrew scored a stoppage time winner to secure all three points for Dale at The Coral Windows Stadium.
Peter Vincenti converted an Ian Henderson spot kick that came back off the crossbar, after home goalkeeper Jordan Pickford had been sent off for bringing down Matt Done in the area.
Jon Stead equalised just after the half hour mark before half-time. The game looked like it would end in a stalemate, but Andrew rose highest deep into stoppage time to give Dale all three points.
Dale made three changes to the side that beat Nottingham Forest last weekend. Stephen Dawson and Ian Henderson came in for Jamie Allen and Joel Logan.
Bradford made the brighter start of the two sides on an awful playing surface at Valley Parade. James Hanson had the first effort of the game with a 25 yard shot which flew well over, before the experienced Jon Stead curled a left footed effort just wide of the far post.
Dale settled into the game and it was their first chance of a counter attack that brought the opening goal. Vincenti played a perfectly weighted through ball for Matt Done, who touched the ball past the advancing Pickford before being clipped. Referee Gavin Ward pointed straight to the spot and showed a red card to the Bradford stopper.
Henderson stepped to take up the penalty having missed his last spot kick in the defeat at home to Fleetwood. He chose to chip it this time but struck the bar. However, with the ball coming back at him he had to the presence of mind to duck under the ball, allowing Vincenti to race in behind and smash the ball into the back of the net.
The home fans felt hard done by the dismissal, and vented their displeasure at every opportunity. Alan Sheehan had a good chance to equalise blocked by the Dale defence midway through the half as their fans looked to build a bit of a siege mentality.
Keith Hill’s men had some good spells of possession without really probing, and the home side took advantage by equalising thirteen minutes before half-time.
A corner was cleared before being put back into the box where James Hanson headed back across goal. His header was flicked on into the path of Stead, who nodded home from the middle of the goal three yards out.
On the balance of play it was a deserved equaliser for Bradford who had reacted well to going down to ten men. Stead had an effort blocked by Eastham before Billy Knott struck just wide after striding onto a loose ball on the edge of Dale’s area.
Dale were trying to build from the back but the pitch made that extremely difficult, allowing Bradford to build good pressure up top, but the sides headed in level at the break.
There were no changes for either side at the break, but both had chances early on. Hanson and Knott headed over for Bradford, either side of a good chance for Done. His cross-cum-shot was inches away from the far post, and the onrushing Henderson who couldn’t quite get a toe to the ball.
Michael Rose replaced Tanser just before the half hour mark as Keith Hill made his first throw of the dice, followed swiftly by a second substitution with Logan coming on for Henderson.
The home side had two great chances twenty minutes from time to take the lead. Stead had a shot blocked by Ashley Eastham when he should have done better, before Hanson headed over from ten yards when he should have hit the target.
Calvin Andrew came on for Callum Camps in Dale’s final substitution, and what a final change it would be. A stoppage time free kick was sent into the area which Eastham headed upwards. Andrew headed the ball to the far stick, and it rolled over the line with Eastham there shielding the ball to make sure it crossed the line.
There was barely time for any more action as the referee blew for full time soon after, sending Dale back to Spotland with all three points.
Attendance: 13570 (away 728)