Stockport manager Jim Gannon was honest enough to admit that he felt "sorry for Rochdale because they wanted it more than us, they passed the ball better than us and they were the better side throughout."
Rochdale dominated virtually from the first whistle and were unlucky to see two apparently good goals by former Stockport striker Adam Le Fondre ruled out for offside and a free kick from teenager Kallum Higginbotham striking the woodwork.
Much against the run of play the visitors took the lead after 28 minutes when Adam Griffin produced a cross from the by-line that was converted with more than a suggestion of handball by striker Liam Dickinson.
Rodhdale continued to boss the game but fell further behind seven minutes into the second-half when Dickinson rose unchallenged to head home a Griffin free kick.
Le Fondre did pull one back for Rochdale when he won and calmly converted a 69th minute penalty.
Despite incessant pressure they could not find a way through a County rear guard that was superbly marshalled by stand-in defender Matty McNeil and when they did keeper Conrad Logan kept them at bay.