Rochdale were dealt a huge blow deep in stoppage time on Tuesday night, as Oxford United netted at the death to snatch three points from their visit to the Crown Oil Arena.
It was a cruel ending to a game where Dale were worthy of at least a point.
Rochdale went behind early in the first half to a Dan Agyei strike, only to respond superbly to the set-back and come from behind, thanks to goals from Matty Done and Stephen Humphrys, to take a lead into the break.
The Us turned the game on its head, though, in the second half when Elliott Moore and James Henry netted to put the visitors ahead, but Dale responded immediately through a Matt Lund equaliser.
With a minute of the match remaining, Olamide Shodipo won it for Oxford.
There were two changes to the side that lined up against Gillingham at the weekend, as Stephen Humphrys returned from injury, replacing Alex Newby, and Matty Done coming in for Ryan McLaughlin who was self-isolating.
The visitors enjoyed the better of the opportunities during the opening exchanges and they tested first. After hitting Dale on the break, Agyei was denied by Gavin Bazunu, who turned his dangerous effort round the post.
Cameron Brannagan struck over the crossbar, before the Us took the lead on 12 minutes. After a corner was partially cleared away out of the area, it was sent into the path of Agyei, who turned and struck low beyond Bazunu from 25-yards.
Despite going behind, Rochdale rallied and confidently grew into the game, taking away any early momentum from the visitors, and Ollie Rathbone twice struck narrowly wide of Jack Stevens’ right-hand post in quick succession.
A deserved equaliser came soon after, with 22 minutes on the clock, when Done scored his first of the season.
It was a fantastic move by Dale which saw Lund winning the ball in midfield to send Dooley on his way. After driving forward, he picked out Done, who hit a low drive across goal and into the bottom corner.
After the goal, Rochdale enjoyed plenty more joy down the left-hand side and it provided the corner that led to Humphrys putting Dale in front. The forward met Morley’s ball into the area and sent a back-heeled effort beyond Stevens.
Rochdale remained in control and while the Us had a couple of half-chances, they were limited in their clear-cut opportunities. Jordan Obita had a fierce cross held by Bazunu before he smashed a half-volley from distance well over the bar.
Up the other end, Stevens held onto a Kwadwo Baah curling effort, as Dale tested late in the half.
In stoppage time, the Us had the ball in the back of the net through Matty Taylor, but it was ruled out for offside.
HT | ROCHDALE 2-1 OXFORD UNITED
Oxford United started the second half in the same manner that they had the first and Obita struck into the side netting from a tight angle just 60 seconds after the re-start.
They levelled the scoring three minutes later, when Moore rose highest to meet a free-kick into the area and nodded home.
The Us had a new found impetuous and Henry’s driven effort was kept out by a fine Bazunu save, as he denied him with his feet.
But while the ‘keeper kept him out on that occasion, there was nothing he could do to stop him shortly after the hour as he found the top corner from 30-yards with a stunning strike.
Rochdale responded immediately, though, and were back level within two minutes thanks to Lund, who met Morley’s dangerous cross into the area and turned the ball home.
Shortly before the goals, Dale had made their first and only substitution of the game, as Newby replaced Baah.
Rochdale had a couple of late opportunities to claim a victory before Oxford snatched the three points deep in stoppage time.
With five minutes of the game remaining, Lund came sliding in at the back post to meet a Morley delivery, but just couldn’t make up the extra inches to get a touch on the ball to turn it home.
There was an audacious speculative effort from Morley, as he spotted Stevens off his line and struck from inside his own half, only for the ‘keeper to scurry back and hook the it away off the line.
And the sucker punch came at the death, when Shodipo sent an effort from distance into the back of the net an empty net, after Bazunu having come off his line to make a clearance.
FT | ROCHDALE 3-4 OXFORD UNITED