This week’s FA Cup heroes Wigan Athletic and Rochdale went head-to-head at the DW Stadium with the Latics coming out on top.
Latics went ahead after only 12 minutes when Michael Jacobs’ precise finish from the edge of the area found the corner of the net.
The home team created further chances in the opening half with a James Vaughan header, and Dale keeper Josh Lillis making a good save to deny Jamie Walker.
But the visitors should have drawn level when Dale captain Ian Henderson volleyed narrowly wide with the goal at his mercy.
Latics then missed a great opportunity to increase their lead when Walker linked up with Vaughan and rounded Lillis but his final effort from a tight angle was too high.
In the second half Latics had further opportunities when Max Power fired wide from the edge of the area and his late curled free kick beat Lillis but crashed against the crossbar.
Latics remain in third spot in the table, three points behind leaders Blackburn with three games in hand. Rochdale drop to bottom although they have four games in hand on some of their rivals.
Paul Cook rested seven players from the team that had shocked Manchester City in the FA Cup on Monday, with Donervon Daniels, Reece James, Jay Fulton, Ryan Colclough and James Vaughan, Michael Jacobs and Jamie Walker all coming into the team.
Latics made the better opening with Ryan Colclough drawing an early save from Lillis and they went ahead soon afterwards when Jacobs picked up Walker’s header and finished with aplomb past Lillis.
They might have increased the lead on 17 minutes but Vaughan headed over at the back post and later Walker forced Lillis into a good save low down at his near post.
Rochdale’s best chance fell to Henderson but the striker volleyed off target from a great position inside the box.
Walker was causing plenty of problems for the Dale backline and he nearly got on the scoresheet when he linked up with Vaughan and rounded the keeper but his final effort was too high.
Early in the second half Jacobs forced another good save from Lillis when he cut inside and unleashed a low drive.
Henderson headed over for Dale and Steven Davies had an effort blocked as they battled to get back into the game.
But Latics should have increased their lead when substitute Gavin Massey set up Max Power on the edge of the area but the midfielder’s shot from 20 yards was off target.
Power then went evener closer when his curled free kick from the edge of the box crashed against the crossbar with Lillis beaten.
Latics had enough chances to have won by a greater margin but they had to settle for the 1-0 final scoreline. They will be pleased to have secured the vital three points in their quest for automatic promotion especially given all the team changes and the other leading teams all gaining three points.
The next few weeks could prove crucial as Latics go in search of a League and Cup double. From Tuesday they have a packed schedule of 5 games in 19 days with Bristol Rovers (a), Blackburn Rovers (a), Scunthorpe United (h), Bradford City (a) before the FA Cup quarter-final at home to Southampton.