Midfielder Joss Labadie pounced to score in the 81st minute after Dale goalkeeper Josh Lillis parried Damon Lathrope's goal-bound strike from 15 yards.
Gulls skipper for the night Krystian Pearce opened the scoring, powerfully heading in recalled Courtney Cameron's pacy free-kick from the right.
Dale levelled in the 38th minute when the busy Jamie Allen pounced on a defensive mix-up to convert from close range.
Seconds earlier home keeper Martin Rice had made a superb full-length diving save to parry Dale skipper Peter Cavanagh's thumping 25-yard strike.
Torquay countered straight from kick-off with on-loan Notts County targetman Enoch Showunmi smashing a dipping 20-yard effort off the foot of the post with Lillis beaten by the pace of the strike.
Dale hit the post themselves in the 71st minute through centre-back Oliver Lancashire's powerful downward header and the defender would see red with two minutes to go when he picked up a second yellow card.