Dale went down 3-2 to Chesterfield in a pulsating encounter at Spotland.
The Spireites took the lead midway through the first half through Jay O’Shea, and had a goal controversially disallowed long after it had been given just a minute before half-time.
Ian Henderson equalised with a diving header in the second half, but two goals in two minutes late on from Lee Novak and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake took the game away from Dale.
Rhys Bennett ensured a nervy finish for the visitors, but ran out of time to grab an equaliser.
There was one change from last weekend’s superb win at Walsall. Jamie Allen made his first start since October after returning from injury, replacing Callum Camps who missed out through illness. Joe Rafferty returned to the bench after recovering from his stomach injury.
Both sides came into the game full of confidence thanks to their wins last week, where the visitors thrashed Shrewsbury 7-1.
They cancelled each other out in the opening stages, with Gboly Ariyibi and Donal McDermott firing across goal from tight angles in the opening ten minutes.
Lee Novak sent a free-kick for Chesterfield well over, before Calvin Andrew came close with a Dale set-piece that curled just wide.
McDermott forced former Dale loanee Tommy Lee into his first stop of the match, with a right foot effort after he cut inside from the left.
The visitors began to get on top of the game and it was Ariyibi who was at the centre of it. He beat Michael Rose and played a ball into Ebanks-Blake. He laid the ball off to O’Shea who jinked onto his right foot and placed the ball into the bottom corner.
The right winger was causing problems down the Dale left and saw Tom Kennedy replace Michael Rose who had already picked up a booking. However, his pace set up another chance which was turned into the net by Novak, but he was in an offside position when the ball came across.
Dale were struggling to cope with the pace of the Spireites winger who had a chance to make it 2-0 himself after a poor clearance rebounded to him, but his left foot shot went wide of Josh Lillis’ left post.
Then came the controversial disallowed goal just a minute before half-time. Ariyibi found himself with space on the Dale left and shot with his left foot. The ball took a deflection on its way through to the back of the net. The goal was initially given, but after consulting with his assistant, Carl Boyeson disallowed it as Novak was in an offside position when the ball was struck.
It was a huge let off for Dale who headed into the break just one goal behind, and were saved by a Lillis block just two minutes into the second half from a free-kick.
Bennett came on for Allen with five minutes gone as Dale began to dominate the game for the first time. Andrew sent a header over from McDermott’s cross before Bennett had a close range shot blocked out for a corner kick.
But two minutes before the hour mark Dale deservedly equalised through Henderson. Andy Cannon sent in a brilliant cross from the right which the Dale skipper met with a low diving header to bring Dale level.
Keith Hill’s men sensed there was more in this game for them, and Henderson had two efforts at goal to double his tally, forcing a defensive block and then a save from the legs of Lee.
Vincenti dragged a shot wide after a neat turn on the edge of the area, just before Nathaniel Mendez-Laing was brought on for McDermott.
However, just minutes later Chesterfield regained the lead. Substitute Dan Gardner fired across goal from the left and Novak got the slightest of touches to divert the ball past Lillis.
There was barely time for Dale to react before the game was out of sight as the visitors doubled their lead. Jim McNulty was robbed by Ebanks-Blake as he tried to find a way back to Lillis, and the striker calmly finished to make it 3-1.
Two goals in quick succession was a body blow for Dale who looked to be out of the game, although their task was made slightly easier when Ariyibi was sent off for a second bookable offence, both of which were given for simulation.
Five minutes of stoppage time were added and Bennett set up a grandstand finish with a great header three minutes into those, but it was too late for Dale to gain anything from the match despite a flurry of late corners.
Dale: Lillis, McNulty, Lancashire, Vincenti, Lund, Andrew, McDermott, Allen, Rose, Cannon, Henderson.
Subs: Diba, Rafferty, Bennett, Alessandra, Noble-Lazarus, Mendez-Laing, Kennedy.
Chesterfield: Lee, Herd, Hird, Morsy, Ebanks-Blake, O’Shea, O’Neil, Raglan, Donahue, Novak, Ariyibi.
Subs: Gardner, Harrison, Chapman, Banks, Simons, Dieseruvwe, Maguire.