The home side got off to the perfect start when leading scorer Grant Holt volleyed home his 21st goal of the season, but they were rocked 17 minutes later when Ernie Cooksey handled on the line and was dismissed.
After Cooksey had headed for his early bath Lincoln's leading scorer Simon Yeo calmly converted from the spot.
In the second half Rochdale were playing into the teeth of a near gale force wind but not only defended as though their lives depended on it but were a constant threat on the break.
After 60 minutes defender Greg Heald bundled home his first goal of the season following a Jamie Clarke free-kick.
Though Lincoln, with their one man advantage, enjoyed the bulk of the possession they could not break down a stubborn Rochdale rearguard.
And, following more good work on the break from Holt, substitute Alan Goodall added a third goal with his first touch on 74 minutes.