A 57TH-MINUTE header from Richard Wood saw Rotherham United secure a deserved away league success - just their second since April 2016 - in a sweet Roses triumph at Spotland.
Wood was on hand at the back to head home Anthony Forde’s inviting corner to hand the Millers the spoils as they produced just the sort of solid and streetwise away-day performance that Paul Warne was hankering for.
It was notable team performance with all departments functioning well in the Lancashire rain as the visitors inflicted just a third home league defeat on below-par Dale in 13 months.
At the back, the Millers defended sensibly and protected keeper Richard O’Donnell well, with their midfield full of energy and spirit and pockets of quality, principally in the shape of the impressive Darren Potter.
Up front, Kieffer Moore troubled the Dale rearguard and the hosts could have few qualms at the outcome as the Millers delivered just the sort of away showing that you need in order to be a success at this level.
The Millers had to do it after suffering an early blow when Lee Frecklington was forced off after just three minutes with a pulled muscle, but they regrouped well and had the better of the first half.
They conjured three good chances, but failed to convert, while at the other end, O’Donnell - deputising for Marek Rodak - had next to nothing to do.
The hosts’ best moment arrived courtesy of a spectacular half-volley from distance from Steven Davies, which landed on the roof of the net.
It was an effort in isolation, with the Millers looking the more composed between both boxes, but lacking a clinical edge in the final third.
Their first excellent chance arrived on 20 minutes when Will Vaulks, in splendid isolation following Forde’s well-placed free-kick, saw his header yield a finger-tip save from Josh Lillis.
The Dale custodian showed his alertness soon after in racing out to block an effort from Richie Towell, who ghosted into the box following Potter’s fine pass.
Lillis then gathered a weak shot from Forde, who proved wasteful after being set up by Ryan Williams’ slick pass.
After a sound first half aside from the lack of goals, the Millers persevered and their pressure finally told three minutes before the hour mark.
Forde’s inswinging corner found its way to Wood at the far post and his header beat Lillis to hand the Millers a deserved breakthrough.
Below-par on the day, Dale almost conjured a leveller soon after going behind, with Davies header clipping the bar following Joe Bunney’s corner before a well-stationed Vaulks cleared an Ian Henderson header from close to his own line.
Clearly with a taste for goals, Wood soon headed over from a good position after Potter’s centre.
Dale produced a mini-spell of pressure in the final quarter, but the Millers deservedly took the points, despite a late scare when sub Bradden Inman fired over from close range in stoppage-time.
Warne said: “I am really pleased, our away form hasn’t been ace, but our performances have been good. We had a lot of fans here today and they were really loud and it helped the lads.
“To keep a clean sheet is good and they hadn’t conceded in a while so I am really pleased.
“At home we sometimes play great football and are exciting to watch and at places like this with the horrendous conditions we have got to be ugly.
“I told them we have got to be ugly and pick up points and at the end of the season we can look back and say it was a big win or a big point.
“Before the game I would have taken a point to be honest, because getting a point away with our home form would be great.
“But the fact we have played well, in tough conditions and got the win is great.
“I am delighted for the fans, they will have enjoyed that because there has been plenty of away trips over the last couple of years that won’t have been enjoyable.”
Rochdale: Lillis 7, Bunney 6, McNulty 6, McGahey 6, Daniels 6, Rathbone 6 (Andrew 61), Camps 6 (Inman 71), MJ Williams 7, Henderson 5, Done 6 (Slew 81), Davies 7. Substitutes unused: Rafferty, Ntlhe, J Williams, B Moore.
Rotherham United: O’Donnell; Cummings, Wood, Ihiekwe, Mattock; Forde (Ajayi 88), Potter, Frecklington (Vaulks 4), Towell, R Williams; K Moore (Clarke-Harris 90). Substitutes unused: Price, Emmanuel, Ball, Yates.
Referee: D Coote (West Yorkshire).