The Lilywhites were a whisker away from the opening goal when Joe Garner headed against Paul Gallagher’s free-kick against the crossbar.
The home side made the most of that escape and edged ahead in the 28th minute when Michael Rose’s free-kick from just inside the Preston half was swung towards the back post and defender Jack O’Connell dived full stretch to guide a header past Jamie Jones.
And Rochdale doubled their advantage just four minutes later. Rhys Bennett advanced towards the edge of Preston’s area before miscuing a shot straight into the path of Ian Henderson who side-footed home.
Joe Garner saw a fierce drive beaten away by Dale stopper Conrad Logan after the interval and blazed a good opportunity over the top.
Matt Done made the result safe for Rochdale when he seized on a defensive mix-up in the visitors’ backline, nicking the ball off Jones and slotting into an empty net.
Preston were denied a late consolation when Garner earned a spot kick after being felled by Ashley Eastham only for the striker to see his spot kick brilliantly saved by Logan.
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