A ROUSING injury-time rally failed to mask yet another unacceptable home performance from the Blues.
Having failed to register a worthwhile effort on Rochdale's goal during 90 minutes, City then passed up four stoppage-time chances to score.
During eight pulsating injury-time minutes, Alan Goodall cleared a Simon Yeo header off the line, keeper Matthew Gilks produced a quality save to deny Paul Linwood, Chris Holroyd volleyed over and Yeo rattled the woodwork.
It was breathless stuff, but why did it take Chester so long to move in for the kill?
The Blues had fallen behind on five minutes when Louis Dodds tapped in a right-wing cross from Glenn Murray.
City looked to have been thrown a lifeline in the 63rd minute when ref Andrew Taylor pointed to the penalty spot after Rory McArdle hauled down Phil Bolland in the box - only to change his mind after consulting his assistant. Star man: Simon Yeo.
Chester: Danby, Linwood, Bolland, Artell, Marples, Maylett (Holroyd 74), Hand, Wilson, Hessey, Yeo, Brownlie (Steele 57). Subs: Sandwith, Cronin, Meechan.
Booked: Yeo, Artell, Hand.
Rochdale: Gilks, Ramsden, Goodall, McArdle, Perkins, Muirhead, Doolan, Turnbull (Crooks 67), Rundle, Lewis Dodds (Thompson 81), Murray. Subs: Rigby, Jackson, Prendergast.
Goals: Lewis Dodds (5).
Referee: Andrew Taylor (Cheshire).