Rochdale 3 Accrington Stanley 1
Accrington's plans were not helped by an injury in the warm-up to midfielder John Mullin and they finished with two goalkeepers on the bench.
Out of it, though, they were forced into a 4-5-1 formation and the home side struggled to come to terms with it.
As early as the tenth minute Stanley should have taken the lead, but Robert Grant missed gilt-edged chance with the goal at his mercy.
Five minutes later, leading scorer Paul Mullin had a free header from a corner but was denied by an excellent Sam Russell save.
Somewhat against the run of play, the home side took the lead midway through the half, courtesy of a wonderful run by teenager Will Buckley.
Having beaten three defenders, he was eventually up-ended in the box, with leading scorer Adam Le Fondre converting from the penalty spot.
Accrington's response was immediate as within 90 seconds captain Peter Cavanagh saw his 20-yard free-kick deflect into the roof of the net via the home wall.
The home side regained the lead on 56 minutes, when Buckley timed his run into the box to perfection and calmly slotted home a well-delivered Adam Rundle cross.
Dale made the points safe with just three minutes remaining when substitute Kallum Higginbothom, who spent a month on loan at Accrington in December, finished well having been fed into the box by fellow substitute Chris Dagnall.