Two goals in either half from Burton Albion condemned Dale to defeat at the Crown Oil Arena.
Marcus Harness’ first-half double saw the Brewers head into the break two goals ahead, before Liam Boyce and Harness’ hat-trick goal sealed their victory in the second period.
Keith Hill made five changes from the New Year’s Day defeat at Doncaster Rovers. Josh Lillis, Joe Rafferty, Jordan Williams, Bradden Inman and Matty Gillam all returned to the starting line-up.
Dale created the first chance of the game when Inman kept himself onside from Ian Henderson’s pass and chipped an effort across goal which went narrowly wide of the far post.
Lucas Akins headed a David Templeton cross wide of the far post, before he then sent a low effort wide after again being found by Templeton. Both efforts came either side of an effort from Gillam which flew narrowly wide after a good run forward.
The visitors’ opening goal came from a corner ball which was flicked on at the near post to Harness, who nodded home from inside the six-yard box.
Scott Fraser fired wide of the near post from a tight angle as Burton went in search of a second, before Jordan Williams was denied by the legs of Bradley Collins after being found by Gillam’s reverse ball.
The Brewers doubled their lead on the half hour mark, as Harness doubled his tally, finding the bottom corner with a powerful left-foot effort from 20-yards.
Fraser and David Templeton both sent efforts off target before Rafferty saw a powerful effort well blocked by a Burton defender.
Lillis was on hand to make two good stops before the break, denying Akins and Dale Academy product Jamie Allen’s powerful first-time effort from just inside the area.
After the interval, Inman saw a shot blocked before having another effort well saved at the near post from Callum Camps’ through ball.
Ollie Rathbone had a shot deflected inches wide, before he found Henderson with a square ball, which the Dale skipper controlled well before firing narrowly wide.
Jordan Williams had a shot deflected into the arms of Burton goalkeeper Bradley Collins, shortly before Dale thought they had pulled a goal back.
Inman’s free-kick was headed onto the post before being prodded in by MJ Williams, who was in an offside position.
Rory Holden came for his Dale debut, along with Aaron Morley, replacing Gillam and Camps, shortly before Henderson had a run and curling effort just wide.
The visitors added their third through substitute Boyce in the 78th minute after he had been found by Harness, before the latter netted his hat-trick and Burton’s fourth, curling a low effort beyond Lillis from the edge of the area.
Henderson headed wide and Rathbone had a shot saved as the game came towards a conclusion.