Matty Lund headed Dale into a tenth minute lead, before Bobby Grant equalised from the penalty spot midway through a first half which Dale dominated.
The second half was evenly matched, but Dale found the winner with four minutes remaining, as Steven Davies nodded in Joe Bunney’s cross to seal all three points.
There were four changes to the side that lined-up against Bristol Rovers last week. Niall Canavan missed out through suspension, while Joe Rafferty, Scott Tanser and Jamie Allen also missed out. They were replaced by Jim McNulty, Keith Keane, Joe Thompson and Donal McDermott.
The game was played at a high tempo, making for an entertaining encounter. Both Dale and the Cod Army each registered an opportunity within the opening three minutes, as Ian Henderson firstly chipped an effort over the goalkeeper and into the side netting, before Bobby Grant fired a snap shot at goal from 20-yards. Josh Lillis got down at his post to comfortably smother the effort from the former Dale forward at his near post.
Dale went on to dominate for 20 minute spell and deservedly took the lead with 10 minutes played, when Lund headed beyond Chris Neal from a Donal McDermott delivery.
The goal had been coming and Keith Hill’s side continued on the ascendancy after taking the lead. McDermott dipped a curling effort narrowly over the cross bar, before Callum Camps saw a shot deflected over.
Thompson then fizzed a powerful effort narrowly wide of the upright from 30-yards.
Dale looked comfortable but the visitors found themselves level after netting from the spot in the 23rd minute. Harrison McGahey was adjudged to have felled Chris Long inside the area and Grant stepped up to take the resultant penalty. Lillis got a hand to the effort from 12-yards, but there was too much power behind the shot to keep it out.
The Cod Army, who had been on the back foot for the majority of the half so far, grew into the game after the penalty, with Lillis pulling off an excellent save to deny Long a few moments after the spot-kick.
Dale then had two penalty claims of their own turned down. Five minutes after the Cod Army had levelled, there were big shouts for a Rochdale spot-kick as Camps was brought to ground inside the 18-yard box.
McDermott then whipped a half volley just over the bar, before Dale had a second penalty claim waved away. Lund was clearly shoved to ground at the back post as he attempted to attack a McDermott corner.
In the final five minutes, Long, who had been the visitors’ biggest threat during the first half, bundled his way through on goal and was kept out by Lillis, who got down well to his left. And Jim McNulty put in excellent timely challenge to prevent Devante Cole getting his shot away from inside the area. If it had left his boot, it looked almost certain to end up in the back of the net.
HT: ROCHDALE 1-1 FLEETWOOD TOWN
After the break, the teams were evenly matched as an entertaining battle unfolded, as the sides went in search of a goal. Clear cut opportunities were at premium, however, as Dale and Fleetwood defended resolutely.
And it was after Manager Keith Hill made a double substitution in the 63rd minute that Dale went on to dominate. Thompson and McDermott, who worked tirelessly throughout, were replaced by Steven Davies and Sanmi Odelusi.
A good save by Neal prevented Davies getting a head on a dangerous ball across the face of goal by Bunney, with the stopper punching away the delivery at his back post.
Ian Henderson was replaced by Calvin Andrew with fifteen minutes remaining as Keith Hill used his third and final substitute. Davies had a free-kick well held, but five minutes later he would find the back of the net to score the winning goal.
Joe Bunney found space down the left flank and put a superb ball across, which Neal misjudged, allowing Davies to power a header into the back of the net.
Everyone inside the ground knew how important the goal and three points could be, and they were desperate to see Dale over the line. Fleetwood launched the ball forward trying to grab an equaliser, but the defence held firm to see out four minutes of added time and hold on for the first league win of the season.