For the third consecutive away game Rovers suffered the indignity of defeat to a side that were previously winless in the league.
It was a picture that was all so different as the game ticked into added time with John Marquis’ strike looking to have put Rovers on course for a first league win in five matches.
But two goals inside an added minute from Mark Kitching and Steven Davies saw Rochdale deliver a hammerblow to a Rovers side fast collecting the tag of beleaguered.
The positive was the goal drought came to an end when Marquis slammed home with 16 minutes left on the clock.
But it struggled to mask an overall struggle for creativity, particularly with the added time capitulation which concluded a sorry night played under driving rain.
They had defended valiantly and bravely under some strong pressure from a Rochdale side whose performance belied their lowly status and lack of wins in League One.
Ian Lawlor was called upon to produce a string of good saves - none more important than stopping a penalty with just seven minutes gone.
But at the other end of the pitch was still nowhere near as positive as we had previously come to expect
Darren Ferguson delivered the changes he promised, making five in total. Andy Williams, Jordan Houghton and Issam Ben Khemis made their first league starts of the season while James Coppinger and Niall Mason were recalled to a side that started in a 4-4-2 diamond.
It appeared bad starts were becoming en vogue for Rovers when they conceded a penalty just seven minutes in.
Oliver Rathbone tumbled in what appeared to be nothing more than a competitive tussle with Joe Wright as they chased the ball out of the box.
Rovers’ players reacted furiously, particularly towards the assistant on the left who had flagged for a foul.
They need not have been overly concerned.
Davies stepped up to take the penalty and fired low, which was just perfect for Ian Lawlor to save and gather in one motion.
Though they did not fall behind, the situation did not get a great deal more positive for Rovers.
They were under plenty of pressure from Rochdale, particularly down the hosts’ right where Matt Done was enjoying his time up against Tyler Garratt, finding space behind the inexperienced defender.
But whenever the ball went into the box, Rovers did not look so vulnerable. Bodies were thrown in the way of shots and crosses, denying Rochdale clear sight of goal.
Lawlor produced decent saves from Rathbone and Joseph Rafferty but was not unduly troubled.
The same could be said of his opposite number, who had little to deal with. Rovers again produced some decent play to take them into the final third but a killer touch evaded them.
They improved in the second half, looking much more lively in a contest which evened out considerably and looked likely to end in a stalemate as real chances remained at a premium.
But Rovers finally broke the deadlock on 74 minutes.
A Coppinger corner fell to Williams with his back to goal. He turned and shot, seeing the ball cannon back off the post but straight to Marquis who slotted in first time.
Lawlor looked to have come to Rovers’ rescue inside the final ten minutes, saving a Davies header on the line before producing a stunning stop to keep out Rafferty’s follow up.
But the real drama came after the 90 minutes.
First substitute Kitching smashed a superb volley which sailed over Lawlor’s head and into the far corner.
With Rovers barely having time to digest what had happened, Rochdale won a corner. It sailed across and fell to Davies, who smashed in first time to send Spotland into raptures and Rovers into despair.
Rovers: Lawlor, Mason, Wright, Butler, Garratt, Houghton (Kongolo 72), Whiteman, Ben Khemis (Blair 34), Coppinger, Marquis, Williams (May 85). Subs not used: Marosi, Alcock, Toffolo, Mandeville.
Rochdale: Moore, Rafferty, McGahey, McNulty, Bunney, MJ Williams, Gannon, Rathbone (Kitching 73), Done (Slew 83), Davies, Inman. Subs not used: Lillis, Canavan, J Williams, Daniels, Gillam.
Referee: Ben Toner