New Northampton Town manager Colin Calderwood must have thought Christmas had come early when Martin Smith put them in front in the 51st minute after the Rochdale defence had failed to clear a hopeful cross from the left.
He stabbed the ball home from close range and it looked certain his side would take the three points.
But on 72 minutes Dale substitute Kevin Townson in from the left and crashed the ball into the net from close range to ensure the points were shared.
Rochdale were off to a troubled start when striker Paul Connor limped off after 24 minutes and it got even worse when Chris Shuker went off injured with ten minutes to go.
Late on it took a good save from goalkeeper Neil Edwards to save Rochdale from defeat but generally Northampton, good in defence and even better on their way to goal were let down by their efforts in the penalty area.
Afterwards Calderwood said: "I am happy to have got a point away from home and the lads never let their shoulders drop.
"The pity of it was that we couldn't hold out even though it looked as if we would with the end of the match in sight." Rochdale's downfall was their lack of height up front especially after Connor had gone but little men Townson and Shuker kept the pot boiling with some enterprising stuff going forward but they struggled to find the target.
The star of the Northampton show was goalkeeper Lee Harper who made several good saves, while Paul Trollope and Josh Low both made an impression on the way to goal.