Rochdale were narrowly beaten by promotion chasing Wigan Athletic, going down 1-0 at the DW Stadium.
Michael Jacobs gave Latics the lead after 12 minutes, and despite Dale creating chances in a positive second-half display, it would be enough to secure all three points for the hosts.
Keith Hill made two changes to the starting eleven from midweek’s draw with MK Dons, as Scott Wiseman and Ollie Rathbone came in for Joe Rafferty, who missed out altogether, and Stephen Humphrys.
Dale started the opening ten minutes brightly, without finding a route to goal, and it was the home side who were the more clinical, breaking the deadlock in the 12th minute.
James Vaughan’s flick through to Jacobs was well-weighted, and the Wigan skipper fired low into the far corner to give his side the lead.
Callum Camps sent a long-range effort narrowly wide of the far post, whilst Vaughan headed over and Jamie Walker had an effort beaten away by Lillis as the hosts had the better of the opening period.
Ian Henderson had Dale’s best chance of the opening period, latching onto a dinked through ball from Camps, but firing inches wide on the half-volley from the edge of the area.
Latics came straight down the other end, and Walker’s run into the area saw him round Lillis, before firing over as the angle narrowed.
Steven Davies replaced McNulty four minutes before the break as Hill changed to four at the back, and he sent an ambitious effort from just inside the Wigan half wide on the stroke of half-time.
Lillis made another strong save seven minutes after the break, beating away a powerful near post effort from Jacobs.
Sam Hart replaced Rathbone to make his Dale debut after joining on-loan from Blackburn Rovers in January, shortly before Lillis was equal to Vaughan’s stooping header.
Dale created a superb chance to equalise when Davies’ cross the back-post found the unmarked Henderson, but he headed over the crossbar.
Billy Knott replaced Camps with Dale’s final change midway through the second half, and his right-footed cross the back-post found Hart, whose header lacked power and was easily held by Christian Walton.
Max Power curled a stunning free-kick off the underside of the crossbar, shortly before Henderson’s delivery was nodded over by Scott Wiseman at the back-post.
Dale pushed forward in search of an equaliser their second-half play perhaps deserved, but couldn’t carve out a clear opening despite their best efforts.