Francois Zoko's winner extended Carlisle's unbeaten home run to 13 games at the expense of Rochdale.
Dale twice went close but Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro's shot was deflected and Michael Symes's effort was well saved.
Zoko's mazy run allowed Lee Miller to cut the ball back for Jon Paul McGovern to fire in the opener.
Jason Kennedy glanced in Andrew Tutte's cross to score the equaliser against the run of play, but Zoko won it with a low drive shortly afterwards.
VIEWS FROM THE DRESSING ROOM
Carlisle United boss Greg Abbott told BBC Radio Cumbria:
"I'm delighted with the response after half-time as we weren't happy with our intensity but we told them and got the response.
"The big players came to the party. Francois Zoko was like chalk and cheese and in the second half he deservedly won us the game, but we need that for 90 minutes.
"We could've won more handsomely, but they drew with Sheffield Wednesday, they're fighting for their lives and it's three points.
"Our fans were fantastic and I applaud them. They need to spread the word and we need every bit of help we can get as it was a small crowd and not good enough for where we need to be.
"We're looking to move the club forward and we need thousands more people in. We're starting to achieve now and have made massive strides forward."
Rochdale manager John Coleman told BBC Radio Manchester:
"I'd just like to apologise to our supporters for our second-half performance.
"It was way below standard and everything we said at half-time we didn't put into practice.
"We were second to every ball, we backed off them and we got what we deserved, which was nothing.
"To get back into the game, it's heartbreaking to concede how we did, but it was symptomatic of how we played tonight."