Exeter survived a Rochdale comeback to move into the play-off places.
The Grecians cruised ahead when Pat Baldwin finished after John O'Flynn's header was saved, and O'Flynn then converted Jamie Cureton's cross.
O'Flynn struck again when Craig Woodman's cross crept through for Exeter to go three up.
Terry Gornell pulled one back for Dale in the second half and then slotted home Andrew Tutte's cross before he was dismissed for kicking out.
VIEWS FROM THE DRESSING ROOM
Rochdale manager John Coleman told BBC Radio Manchester:
"Last week in the first half [in the 3-2 defeat by York] we were absolutely dreadful.
"This week, we were the better team and went in 3-0 down. We missed the best chances of the game and conceded a couple of sloppy goals.
"We'll take it on the chin and be encouraged and take heart from our performance."
Exeter City manager Paul Tisdale told BBC Radio Devon:
"It's the fourth time I've been here as Exeter manager and every game has been terrific
"I'm glad we got the third goal because it was always going to be a different second half - they would respond, we learned that to our cost last April.
"Pat Baldwin is lethal from a yard out, if you run in on goal enough eventually the ball will come to you.
"It was a frantic finish. It's impossible at three up, no matter what people say, to go and play with as much freedom in the second half."