Manager Paul Warne saluted the “ugly” performance which has pushed Rotherham United into the League One play-off places.
The Millers stood up to Rochdale’s physical approach to win on the road for only the second time this season and are now up to fourth in the table after 12 games.
Richard Wood’s second-half header settled a hard-fought contest, played in driving rain, 1-0 in the visitors’ favour against a side that hadn’t conceded in their five previous matches.
“At home, we sometimes play great football and are exciting to watch,” Warne said.
“At places like this, with the horrendous conditions, we have got to be ugly. I told the players 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 point away with our home form would be great.”
The Millers deserved their sixth win in eight matches, in front of a vociferous 1,200-strong away following.
“I am really pleased,” Warne added. “Our away results haven’t been ace, but our performances have been good.
“We had a lot of fans here today. They were really loud and it helped the lads. To keep a clean sheet is good.”
The triumph was marred by an early injury to captain Lee Frecklington. Tests on Monday should reveal whether the damage is to his back or hamstring.