Peterborough scored twice in two minutes through Jack Baldwin and Tom Nicholls, before Joe Thompson responded immediately to pull a goal back.
Joe Rafferty was dismissed in first half stoppage time for a second bookable offence, and Donal McDermott saw a straight red seven minutes into the second half leaving Dale with nine men.
They performed superbly to stay in the game and sensed a point was up for grabs when Baldwin saw red for a second yellow card, but Paul Taylor made it 3-1 five minutes before the end to seal all three points for The Posh.
Jim McNulty and Nathaniel Mendez-Laing replaced Mark Kitching and Niall Canavan from the pulsating 3-3 draw against Charlton Athletic last weekend.
The dangerous Marcus Maddison rattled Dale’s crossbar from a free-kick which was sweetly struck and had Ben Wilson scrambling across his goal.
Dale’s first effort of the game came from Callum Camps, after bursting through midfield with the Peterborough defenders backing off him.
Paul Taylor and Nicholls both had efforts from tight angles for the hosts, before Dale had shouts for a penalty waved away when Jamie Allen went to ground in the area.
It was a very even first half with plenty of efforts on goal for both sides. Donal McDermott forced Luke McGee into his first save of the game, when he low shot across goal was well held down low.
At the other end Keith Keane came to Dale’s rescue, when he cleared off the line from a Peterborough corner. Michael Bostwick headed the corner goalwards which was saved by Ben Wilson, before a clearance ricocheted goalwards, where Keane headed clear.
Mendez-Laing, playing at his former club, cut into the area brilliantly from the left side, but fired well over from a tight angle.
A superb ball from Maddison on the right side found the head of Nicholls on the edge of the area, but his effort was straight at Wilson.
Then came the crazy end to the first half, triggered by the opening goal for the hosts. A corner from the left was swung into the area, and Baldwin reacted quickest to poke the ball home on the slide.
There was a double whammy for Dale as before they could regroup, Posh scored a second. The ball was cut back from the right side into the path of Nicholls, who curled a strike past the full stretch dive of Wilson.
As quick as they had gone two goals down, Dale reduced the deficit to just one with a brilliant response. Mendez-Laing picked up the ball in space and threaded a perfect through ball to Thompson, who slotted past McGee with a first time finish.
There was still time for more before the break, as Maddison sent a free-kick wide before forcing Wilson into a comfortable save.
Andrew’s looping header was deflected wide for a Dale corner, but as the home tried to break forward from defending the corner, Rafferty brought Maddison to the ground and received a second yellow card, leaving Dale with ten men heading into half-time.
Harrison McGahey replaced Thompson at the break as Keith Hill was forced to shuffle his pack, and he would need to do so again shortly into the second half when McDermott was given a straight red card for a foul on Baldwin.
Kitching replaced Keane, as Dale had to prepare for the rest of the match with just nine men.
They did so superbly, as after Andrew had fired a free-kick wide, Dale swatted away a number of Posh attacks as they looked to make the most of their two man advantage.
Maddison’s low shot was well held by Wilson with attackers looking for any rebound to tap home, before he made a superb reaction save again from Maddison. The Peterborough man bundled his way through into the area and fired goalwards, but Wilson stuck out an arm to turn the effort wide.
Wilson was called into action again with fifteen minutes remaining when he raced out quickly to deny Bradden Inman in a one-on-one situation.
Just five minutes later, a third red card was shown, this time to Peterborough captain Baldwin who received a second yellow card for a cynical foul on Henderson.
Dale sensed they might be able to rescue something from the match, as Andrew fired into the side netting from a promising position.
However, any hopes of gaining a point were quashed when Peterborough scored a third. With Dale pushing men forward looking for an equaliser, the home side broke. Inman crossed from the right side all the way to the back post, where Taylor swept home to double his side’s lead.
There was time for an Andrew shot saved by the legs of McGee, but the game ended 3-1 to the hosts.