Rochdale 2 Fleetwood Town 3: Substitutes secure three points for Joey Barton’s players
The travelling faithful will have been hugely encouraged by their team’s battling spirit, though the game was marred by a late injury to Rochdale defender Rhys Norrington-Davies.
He was stretchered off late on following a clash with Town keeper Billy Crellin, an incident which led to 13 minutes of added time at the end.
As Town head coach Joey Barton had hinted after the weekend draw at Rotherham United, he freshened up his starting XI by making three changes.
There was a first league start since August for Harrison Biggins, Ashley Eastham returned at the back and Josh Morris was also given the nod.
Peter Clarke, Kyle Dempsey and Wes Burns all had to settle for a place among the substitutes amid a hectic festive period of fixtures.
It was the hosts who were the first to create an opening in the fourth minute.
Influential skipper Callum Camps drove into the Fleetwood box before curling wide from 15 yards.
Barton soon became a little more animated on the touchline as Dale continued to dictate the pace in the early stages.
Danny Andrew saw a shot blocked as Town rallied somewhat but the zip was missing from their game in a largely dismal opening 20 minutes.
Biggins tried to make his mark when he lashed in a 25-yarder which flew a couple of feet off target.
There were howls for a penalty from the Fleetwood bench when Lewie Coyle looked to have been tripped by Camps as he charged into the box, but referee Andy Haines was unmoved.
Barton would have been even less impressed four minutes before the break when 40-year-old striker Aaron Wilbraham broke the deadlock, forcing a near-post header past Crellin from Stephen Dooley’s corner.
Fleetwood emerged with renewed vigour in the opening minutes of the second period, and three minutes in, Ched Evans saw a looping header strike the top of the crossbar.
Then, in the 53rd minute, Fleetwood struck an equaliser.
Evans’ header from Morris’ cross was only parried by keeper Robert Sanchez into the path of Paddy Madden, who sidefooted home.
The visitors were only back on terms for seven minutes, however, as Wilbraham doubled his tally.
He volleyed home from eight yards following Harry Souttar’s unfortunate flick-on from Luke Matheson’s cross.
Nevertheless, the goals were now flowing and Town made it 2-2 in the 65th minute, with Dempsey firing home via a hefty deflection off Wilbraham.
Then, moments after the injury to Norrington-Davies, Fleetwood won it with Burns slotting home following Evans’ knockdown.
Rochdale: Sanchez, Matheson, O’Connell, Norrington-Davies, Keohane, Ryan (Rathbone 61), Williams, Dooley (C Andrew 78), Camps, Done (Baah 66), Wilbraham. Subs not used: Lynch, Magloire, Gillam, Tavares.
Fleetwood Town: Crellin, Eastham, Souttar, Andrew, Coyle, Morris (McAleny 75), Coutts, Biggins (Dempsey 64), Sowerby (Burns 64), Evans, Madden. Subs not used: Cairns, Clarke, Saunders, Hill.
Referee: Andy Haines.