Dale created the majority of chances in the first half, with Peter Vincenti coming close with a number of headers.
The visitors took the lead early in the second half thanks to a well taken goal from Elliot Embleton, but Ian Henderson’s touch from Jamie Allen’s free-kick six minutes later soon levelled matters.
Henderson struck the post as Dale looked for the winner, with Allen’s rebound ruled out for offside meaning the game went to penalties to see who would claim the extra point on offer.
Two missed penalties from the visitors gave Sanmi Odelusi the chance to seal it for Dale, which he did to give Dale a 4-2 win on penalties.
Keith Hill made six changes from the weekend, with Josh Lillis, Scott Tanser, Peter Vincenti, Matthew Lund, Callum Camps and Joe Bunney all starting. Conrad Logan, Jimmy McNulty, Nathaniel Mendez-Laing,
Sanmi Odelusi, Andy Cannon and Steven Davies made way.
It was a step into the unknown for Dale in the reformatted Checkatrade Trophy, facing a Sunderland U23 side that contained former Bayern Munich man Jan Kirchhoff as one of their overage players.
Dale forced the first save of the game from Maskymillian Stryjek. Ian Henderson’s cross found Vincenti at the far post, who adjusted his body to send a header goalwards, which Stryjek fisted away.
A number of dangerous crosses from Tanser created an opportunity which Bunney nodded wide as Dale made the early running. Joe Rafferty found Vincenti from the opposite side, but this time Stryjek held on to the header.
Henderson found the side netting midway through the first period as Dale showed good link-up play down the right side. Vincenti’s flicked header found Camps in the channel, who squared to Henderson. The skipper took a touch before firing powerfully, but just the wrong side of the post.
Camps then took aim himself with a free-kick from 30 yards, which Stryjek needed to punch clear. Vincenti had his head in his hands just a minute later when he headed wide Jamie Allen’s corner from close range.
As the half wound down to a close Sunderland forced Lillis into his first save of the game. George Honeyman’s curling effort from the edge of the area was helped over by the Dale stopper.
The visitor’s best chance of the first half fell to Kirchhoff, but he could only glance Ethan Robson’s free-kick wide when in a good position.
Dale were inches away from taking the lead four minutes after the break when Rafferty’s low cross was turned onto the bar by a Sunderland defender and over for a corner kick.
Just two minutes later and the visitors got their noses in front thanks to a well worked goal. A swift counter attack led to Embleton picking the ball up on the edge of the area, where he played a one-two with Joshua Maja. As the ball came back to him, Embleton curled a left foot shot past Lillis and into the corner of the net.
Their lead lasted just six minutes though, as Henderson pulled Dale back on level terms. He was brought down outside the left edge of the area, winning a free-kick which Allen fizzed across low. The ball seemed to take a couple of deflections on its way through, but it was Henderson who claimed the vital touch.
Allen’s set piece deliveries were proving dangerous, as Dale created chances from successive corners. Firstly, Lund’s header was deflected wide, before Vincenti’s header from the second corner was held by Stryjek.
Davies and Mendez-Laing replaced Vincenti and Lund just after the hour mark, with Mendez-Laing having a shot deflected wide for a corner shortly after coming on.
It looked as though Dale had taken the lead with little over ten minutes to play, only to be denied by the offside flag. Allen found Henderson on the left who cut inside but struck the post with an excellent curling effort. The follow up was struck home by Allen, but the assistant referee raised his flag against Davies who the ball struck on the line.
Henderson and Camps both sent shots straight at the goalkeeper from the edge of the area as Keith Hill’s men looked for a winning goal, before Henderson was replaced by Odelusi who made a great opening for himself before firing a shot just over the crossbar in added time.
Davies, Rafferty and Bunney all scored for Dale, whilst George Honeyman and Thomas Robson missed penalties for the visitors. Harrison McGahey also missed his penalty for Dale, but it didn’t matter as Odelusi sent the goalkeeper the wrong way to seal the extra point for Dale.