Just after half time Rochdale's Paul Simpson put a free kick in to the top corner of the net and it looked as if Rochdale 's dismal run of four defeats in a row would be over.
But Exeter had other ideas and Steve Flack headed a long centre from the right in to the Rochdale net to level it on 75 minutes.
Two minutes later the old woeful tale was re-telling itself when Martin Thomas broke out from defence and with acres of room to play with, tried a shot which was stopped by the goalkeeper. He got a second chance and made better use of it this time to put Exeter in front.
There they should have stayed, but they did not defend a corner kick well enough and Gareth Griffiths headed Rochdale level.
It had been a disastrous start for the home side when they conceded a goal to Flack after only 42 seconds.
Rochdale can blame themselves for this, as their snail like defence had chances to clear but let Flack in to finish from ten yards out.
Chris Beech levelled it for Rochdale after 44 minutes when he headed Simpson's free kick past goalkeeper Kevin Miller from very close range.
High flying Rochdale have had their wings clipped of late and this was the fifth time in a row that they have failed to win.
Their defence was a bit sluggish at times and they should have had more than three goals from a series of half chances.
But Exeter were better than their league position looks and they have a solid defence and lively attack in Reinier Moor and the exciting Flack