The lead changed hands from the visitors to the home side and then back the other way as both sides set out with attacking intentions for the full 90 minutes.
Chester had lost striker Gregg Blundell inside the first few minutes after Rochdale goalkeeper Matthew Gilks made a rash challenge on the forward which forced him from the field to be replaced by Ryan Lowe.
On 14 minutes Chester were unlucky when a swift move saw Lowe cross to Ben Davies but the midfielder's strike cannoned off the bar and away to safety.
On 25 minutes the dangerous Grant Holt wriggled free of his marker to fire a venomous shot just over the bar as a warning to the hosts.
Five minutes from the break the home side were hit with a sucker punch as a long ball was played upfield to Rickie Lambert who held it up before setting up captain Gary Jones who slotted past keeper Chris MacKenzie.
Chester were finally rewarded for their efforts 10 minutes after the restart as a cross from Lowe from the right flank was swept home for the leveller by Stewart Drummond.
Two minutes later the home side went in front as an advantage played by the referee allowed Michael Branch to cross to Davies who struck the ball home at the second attempt.
Chester were grateful to MacKenzie as he pulled off a superb flying save to deny a sweetly struck volley from Jones.
The visitors levelled on 69 minutes after a poor punch by MacKenzie fell to Holt on the edge of the box and he head the simple task of finding the empty net.
Both sides pushed for a winner late on and it was Rochdale who were rewarded as Holt's shot was pushed into the path of Lambert who tapped home to claim maximum points.