Rochdale 3 Darlington 1
After a scrappy start, Dale teenager Joe Thompson opened the floodgates when he sneaked into the box to head home Tom Kennedy's cross for his first senior goal on 23 minutes.
In the 37th minute Thompson turned provider as his cross was greedily fired home by Glenn Murray for his fifth goal in as many games.
Two minutes later Dale keeper Sam Russell, an ex-Darlington player, produced a wonderful save to claw away Ian Miller's header and it proved to be a crucial moment in the match.
Just before the break, Adam Le Fondre won, and then coolly converted, a penalty having sneaked in behind Ian Miller.
The visitors were handed a lifeline on 55 minutes when referee Lewis spotted a foul by Simon Ramsden on Alan White and skipper Clark Keltie belted home the resultant spot-kick.
Any hopes the Quakers might have had of staging a comeback ended on 75 minutes when White saw red having received a second yellow card for a litany of poor challenges.
Rochdale are now within touching distance of a top-seven place despite having played two, and in some cases three ,games less than the teams around them.