Mark Beevers’ debatable goal seven minutes from time was cruel on Dale.
Harrison McGahey and Calvin Andrew replaced Andy Cannon and Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, as Keith Hill made two changes from the goalless draw against Fleetwood Town at weekend.
The opening 45 minutes failed to create many openings for either side, with Hill’s side settling into the game comfortably. The best spell of the half came from Bolton, who created the two best chances.
Former Dale loanee Gary Madine was the man most threatening for the hosts, and came closest shortly after the half hour mark when his looping header was cleared off the line by Joe Rafferty.
Wanderers’ spell of pressure led to another high ball into the area which caused Dale problems. Liam Trotter’s half volley from a tight angle, with Ben Wilson stranded, hit Mark Kitching plumb in the chest a couple of yards from goal.
Dale hit back with spell of their own before the break without creating an effort on goal, but after the interval the visitors came flying out of the blocks with two early chances.
Oliver Rathbone received a ball on the turn on the edge of the area, and fired an effort inches wide of the far post.
Then Ian Henderson thumped a half volley into the ground which needed to be saved by Ben Alnwick, before Andrew’s header back into danger was cleared from inside the six yard box.
Jay Spearing and substitute Dean Moxey sent efforts from distance wide for the hosts shortly before the hour mark, but it was Dale who were looking the more likely to break the deadlock.
Another chance fell to Henderson inside the area, when Andrew won a knock down from Rathbone’s cross. However, the skipper’s effort was deflected wide for a corner, from which Canavan headed wide.
Andrew and Henderson both tested Alnwick as Dale kept pushing, but the Wanderer’s goalkeeper held both efforts comfortably.
Joe Thompson was replaced by Peter Vincenti, but against the run of play, the hosts broke the deadlock inside the final ten minutes.
David Wheater’s looping header came back off the crossbar and into a melee of bodies inside the six yard box, and it was adjudged that Beevers managed to turn the ball over the line, despite best efforts from Dale to keep it out.
The debatable goal was a sucker punch for Rochdale who had dominated the second period, and Keith Hill responded with a double substitution. Rathbone and Rafferty were replaced by Callum Camps and Mendez-Laing, as Dale tried to force an equaliser in the final five minutes plus three added on.