One point taken from their last seven games was not ideal preparation for this match and the dismissal of Kevin Ellison for violent conduct after just half an hour did not make their task any easier.
The home side had actually started brightly, with Craig Lindfield, making his first start for Chester, hitting a first-time volley which was stopped by an instinctive save by keeper Sam Russell after 12 minutes.
The Liverpool loan player caused problems for the Dale defence again on 16 minutes when he found space on the left and ran through on goal, but rather than shoot he opted to roll the ball across the face of goal to Richie Partridge, who missed the ball and the chance was gone.
Dale wasted a great chance of their own on 27 minutes when Kallum Higginbotham swung in a great cross to the unmarked Adam Le Fondre at the far post, but he failed to connect properly with the volley allowing John Danby to gather.
Le Fondre did not have long to wait for a chance to make amends as on 29 minutes he latched on to the ball after Danby could only parry Rene Howe's shot and rifled home from six yards out.
Chester's task was made all the more difficult as Ellison was given a straight red card after felling defender Simon Ramsden in an off-the-ball incident.
The game was effectively over a minute before the interval as captain Paul Butler, while under pressure from Howe, succeeded in getting to the ball first, only to poke past his own keeper and into the net.
Tom Kennedy then waltzed his way past several defenders before slotting the ball home to score a brilliant solo goal on the hour mark.
And the 86th minute dismissal of Laurence Wilson, who brought down David Perkins when he was clean through looked like the final act, until sub Adam Rundle rifled a left-footed shot past Danby to put the seal on the win two minutes from time.