Chris Lines’ stunning strike denied Dale the point their performance deserved in losing 3-2 to Bristol Rovers at the Memorial Stadium.
Ian Henderson gave Dale the lead in controversial circumstances, the officials taking an age to confirm the goal just short of the half hour mark.
Liam Sercombe equalised shortly after the break, before Joe Partington put the home side ahead.
Henderson grabbed his second and an equaliser almost instantly, but Dale were undone by Lines’ spectacular effort 11 minutes from time.
There were two changes to the side that lined-up against Millwall in last week’s Emirates FA Cup fourth round replay, as Scott Wiseman and Stephen Humphrys replaced Harrison McGahey and Calvin Andrew.
Rochdale started the game brightly and Callum Camps forced Adam Smith into a save just four minutes into the match, with a strike from 35-yards. The Gas goalkeeper couldn’t keep a hold of the powerful effort but came out to smother, as Ian Henderson looked to pounce on the loose ball, injuring himself in the process.
The brave Smith required stitches for a head wound and play was stopped for six minutes while he received treatment on the pitch.
Rochdale were dominating the first half and were proving to be a real handful for the home side, winning the midfield battle time and time again, and Keith Hill’s side deservedly took the lead shortly before the half hour.
A ball into the area was eventually turned over the line by Henderson, although it took the officials a short while to confirm the goal with the home side claiming for handball.
Dale continued to create the better of the opportunities after opening the scoring.
Henderson got a toe to a dangerous ball across the face of goal but watched on as it went agonisingly wide of the target. The Dale skipper came close again just a minute later, heading wide of the post after a swift counter-attack.
Rory Gaffney was the home side’s biggest threat throughout the half, and he fired an effort wide of the upright moments later, but Dale tested Adam Smith again soon after. Henderson picked out Stephen Humphrys with a precision ball that took the on loan Fulham man past his marker, but he was denied by Smith.
Before the half was out, Lillis got down to hold a shot from Gaffney.
HT: BRISTOL ROVERS 0-1 ROCHDALE
The home side started the second half like a different side and were denied by the post a couple of minutes after the restart.
Dale responded with Humphrys forcing Smith into a save with his feet, but it was from the resulting counter-attack that Liam Sercombe levelled the scoring, striking low into the bottom corner from a Lee Brown ball in from the right.
Before being replaced by Bradden Inman in Dale’s first substitution of the game, Humphrys again forced Smith into a save, with the Gas goalkeeper pushing the effort from the edge of the area round the upright.
But it was the home side who went in front in the 59th minute. From a free-kick, Joe Partington headed beyond an outstretching Lillis.
Dale responded immediately, though, to get back on level terms. Substitute Inman played a neat one-two with Henderson, before pulling the ball back for the skipper, who had an initial effort saved by hit home on the rebound.
A double substitution followed. Cannon who had required treatment was unable to continue was replaced by Billy Knott, while Mark Kitching made way for Joe Thompson.
However, there was nothing Dale could do about Rovers’ third and ultimately winning goal.
Byron Moore got the better of Done on Dale’s left and pulled the ball back to the edge of the area.
Sercombe dummied and the ball fell for Lines, whose stunning strike found the top corner, leaving Lillis with no chance.
Dale pushed forward, sending Ryan Delaney up top as a target man for the last ten minutes, but they couldn’t carve out a chance which could bring them level for a second time.
Lillis was equal to a strong effort late on as the home side looked to double their advantage, and despite a flurry of late set-pieces, Dale couldn’t snatch the point their performance deserved.
FT: BRISTOL ROVERS 3-2 ROCHDALE