Craig Dawson's header less than a minute after the break gave Rochdale all three points against Notts County this evening.
Last season, the Magpies and Dale had been close rivals in pursuit of the League 2 title, but this time around it was about securing a place in League 1. Paul Ince has set a target of 50 points to ensure that his team stays in the division and a win over Keith Hill's side would edge them nine points clear of the relegation pack.
Notts remained unchanged from the weekend, where they defeated Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough. However, there were two new faces on the bench in the form of 18-year-old Adam Langley and Dave Martin, who had recovered from a groin injury.
In a scrappy start to the game, Notts almost went in front inside two minutes from Alan Gow's in-swinging corner. Graeme Lee met the delivery with a diving header but directed the ball over the crossbar.
The hosts were enjoying the majority of the possession early on and could have gone in front themselves, only for Mike Edwards to deny striker Liam Dickinson with a crucial interception, after Gary Jones had dispossessed Lee. Dickinson came close again moments later, when he headed Nicky Adams' centre inches wide of the top corner.
Conor Clifford was next to threaten for Notts, following a delightful switch of play by Neal Bishop, but his powerful hit from the wing cannoned back off the advertising boards to the right of the goal. For Rochdale, Adams' corner wasn't cleared by the County backline and former Magpie Chris O'Grady blazed over on the turn.
Five minutes before the break, Njogu Demba-Nyren had a golden opportunity to break the deadlock, after a swift move involving Gow and Kevin McDonald. McDonald picked out Demba with a low cross towards the back post but the forward was unable to hit the target from three yards out.
At the other end, Stuart Nelson was tested for the first time, as he punched Brian Barry-Murphy's troublesome free kick behind. From the resulting corner, O'Grady's overhead kick found Jason Kennedy, who lashed over from 10 yards out.
Within a minute of the restart, Rochdale went ahead through Dawson. Adams' corner had been aimed towards the back post, where the defender powered a header into the far corner.
Notts could have levelled the scores almost instantly, when Ivan Sproule tested home stopper Owain Fon Williams with a placed strike. Gow's bending free kick from the wing almost found the net, as well, but evaded everyone and bounced wide.
Nelson had to be on his toes to ensure that Rochdale didn't go two ahead. Jones' half volley skimmed off the surface and looked destined to find the bottom corner but the goalkeeper reached out to tip the ball around the post.
Notts pushed further up the pitch in search of an equaliser and Gow had two more chances. First, he controlled Sproule's low pass and fired wide, and then he headed Clifford's cross directly at Williams.
Demba thought he'd opened his County account again but Robbie Williams cleared his goal-bound header off the line. Sproule, cutting inside from the left channel, then forced Williams into an acrobatic stop with a long-range punt.
With 10 minutes left on the clock, Ince threw Febian Brandy into the mix, at the expense of Clifford. But, even with three minutes added time, Notts continued to be frustrated and lost for the second season running at Spotland.
Magpie Player Man of the Match: Kevin McDonald