Chesterfield got their 2012/13 League Two campaign up and running after super-sub Jack Lester headed a last-gasp leveller to make it 1-1 and give the Spireites a richly deserved share of the spoils on a crisp summer's evening at the Proact Stadium.
John Sheridan's side once again were quick out of the traps and were thrice denied by goal-line clearances in the first period, while both Dele Adebola and Jason Kennedy went close for the Dale. Andrew Tutte gave the visitors the lead three minutes after the break when his 35-yard screamer beat the helpless Tommy Lee and the tireless Jordan Bowery was once again denied by some last ditch defending minutes from time as it looked as though the Dale would take all three points back to Spotland.
But second-half substitute Lester had the impact his manager craved in the dying seconds, when he stooped at the near post to head home for a much-deserved point following Craig Westcarr's corner.
The manager chose to employ the same side that started in the 1-0 defeat at the hands of AFC Wimbledon on Saturday, meaning Lee retained his place behind a back four of Terrell Forbes, skipper Sam Hird, Neal Trotman and Nathan Smith.
The midfield comprised of the hard-working Sam Togwell and Mark Randall in the centre, while Drew Talbot - who impressed at Kingsmeadow - and Danny Whitaker lined up on the flanks behind an attack force of Marc Richards and youngster Bowery.
The visitors won the the toss and elected to make the Spireites kick towards their home fans in the opening period and Sheridan's men began in the same blistering fashion that they did in Kingston-upon-Thames. They were desperately unlucky not to take the lead after just four minutes, when Randall's incisive pass was brought down by the chest of Bowery, but Dale defender Ryan Edwards scrambled his cheeky dink off the goal-line.
John Coleman's side responded four minutes later though, when former Darlington man Kennedy advanced forward and sent a delicious curling effort thumping into the stanchion with keeper Lee rooted to the spot. But it was the hosts who were once again left to curse their luck as Trotman leapt highest to head Whitaker's free-kick goalwards, only to see it once again hacked clear on the line and into the arms of Dale stopper Josh Lillis.
The game had begun at a frenetic pace - echoing that of a cup tie - and it was the team in yellow that came close again soon after when Forbes played Adebola onside, but the gargantuan frontman could only fire wide under pressure from the former Leyton Orient defender.
At the other end, Randall knocked another inch-perfect pass into the path of Richards this time, but he was denied by the onrushing Lillis with Talbot unable to convert the rebound. The former Port Vale man received treatment following the collision, finally giving the Proact Stadium a chance to pause for breath.
The game had gone a little flat as it approached the half-hour mark, with the visitors moving the ball well on a slick surface but it soon exploded into life again after a flurry of bookings for both sides and a hefty challenge from the already cautioned Kevin McIntrye flattened Talbot with the Rochdale left-back fortunate to stay on the pitch.
With the game threatening to boil over, Bowery headed Richards' cross wide moments before the break, as the half-time whistle was greeted with jeers by the home fans. The Spireites were undone by a sucker punch after dominating at the Cherry Red Records Stadium in the season's opener on Saturday, and just three minutes after the restart Sheridan's side were hit with another bolt from the blue.
21-year-old midfielder Tutte had shown glimpses of his ability in the opening 45 minutes, but he completely stunned the home crowd when he sent he sent an unstoppable thunderbolt flying into the top corner from fully 35-yards to leave Lee grasping at thin air.
It was harsh on Chesterfield, but it was another test of the Spireites' character having fallen a goal behind and Whitaker moved inside, with Bowery and Talbot either side of substitute Jack Lester just after the hour. John Coleman's side now looked content to sit on their one goal advantage, as Town pushed for that elusive leveller and it was Bowery who next threatened when he twisted and turned inside the Dale box but he couldn't find enough purchase on his shot to trouble Lillis.
The visitors were looking confident and assured in possession, as they tried to draw the home side further upfield and spring in behind them and Ashley Grimes, who had been quiet by his own admission, nearly did so in the 71st minute when he skipped past Trotman before sending his effort narrowly wide of the far post.
Sheridan then plumped for a double change with 15 minutes to play, as Craig Westcarr replaced Randall and Craig Clay came on for Whitaker as Bowery moved up front alongside Lester and the former Notts County man was deployed on the left.
And the change almost worked wonders a minute later, as Matty Pearson had to be alert to scramble away Lester's centre with Westcarr in waiting. The hosts continued to apply a smattering of pressure and Lester was unfortunate not to connect with Talbot's teasing cross six minutes from time, when the slightest of touches would have snatched an equaliser.
It was proving to be another one of those days for the Spireites and their frustrations were further increased when they were once again denied on the goal line, as the retreating Ryan Edwards thwarted Bowery before Trotman headed wide.
But with time running out for Sheridan's side, talisman Lester popped up to head home and snatch a point right at the death for a Chesterfield side who simply refused to give up.
Chesterfield (4-4-2) - Lee; Forbes, Hird (c), Trotman, Smith; Talbot, Togwell, Randall (Westcarr 75), Whitaker (Clay 75); Richards (Lester 64), Bowery.
Unused Subs - O'Donnell, Allott, Westcarr, Darikwa, Clay, Hazel
Bookings - Randall (35), Talbot (38)
Rochdale (4-2-3-1) - Lillis; Pearson, R Edwards, P Edwards, McIntyre; Kennedy, Cavanagh (c); Grimes, Tutte, Donnelly; Adebola (Putterill 65).
Unused Subs - Rafferty, Bennett, Barry-Murphy, Craney, Byrne, Smith.
Bookings - Tutte (33), McIntyre (38)
Referee - Mr. Richard Clark
Attendance - 4,595