A second half brace from Ian Henderson secured all three points for Rochdale that took them level on points at the top of the table with Chesterfield and Exeter.
Troy Brown's first goal in a Ruby and White shirt in torrential rain gave the Robins the lead after a promising start to the second half in adverse weather conditions.
But a triple substitution after 70 minutes by Keith Hill, a former Cheltenham player, changed the game.
Henderson came close on three occasions before finally snatching a scrappy equaliser and the midfielder left Scott Brown stranded in between the sticks as his lobbed effort secured all three points in front of the traveling fans.
Mark Yates had a fully fit squad to chose from and kept the same starting eleven that earned three points in Essex last weekend.
Jamie Cureton started just his second home game of the season after scoring his 250th goal last week against Dagenham and Redbridge.
Connor Roberts returned to the bench in place of youngster Harvey Rivers after returning from international duty.
Rochdale also remained unchanged following last weeks win in Wales.
The visitors are still without top scorer Scott Hogan but his absence didn't prevent Keith Hill's side putting three goals past league newcomers Newport County last Saturday.
The first half was an evenly matched encounter that the Robins initially dominated.
Byron Harrison and Jermaine McGlashan looked lively in attack, but struggled to break through the Dale defence.
McGlashan's effort from range was the pick of the early chances but his strike failed to find its way through a crowded penalty area.
Matt Richards' also came close for the home side as his cross-come-shot was clutched out of the air by Josh Lillis.
The visitors slowly found their feet but failed to provide a clear cut chance on goal.
Gary Dicker's whipped shot across the face of goal dropped just wide of goal and Michael Rose saw his clipped effort from range drop just over the bar after spotting Scott Brown off his line.
Neither keeper had much to deal with, Rose went down under a challenge from Penn and the midfielder was able to redeem himself as he headed clear Lund's free kick from the right side of the wall.
The referee helped make up for a lack of action at either end as he produced a host of yellow cards.
Dicker and Vincenti were carded for fouls on McGlashan and Jombati, whilst Penn was booked for preventing Henderson's advance in the midfield.
As the half came to a close, McGlashan was cautioned for an alleged dive as he plowed through the Dale back line. Jeers of "You don't know what your doing" greeted the man in the middle from the Cheltenham faithful around the Abbey Business Stadium.
Cheltenham Town 0-0 Rochdale
At the start of the first half, the pitch was bathed in sunshine but as the half time interval progressed, the skies turned grey as the clouds dropped and the start of the second half was greeted by a crack of lightening and booming thunder.
Torrential rain saw the fans in the LMI stand move back behind the first run of terracing.
The Robins again started brightly as the front three of Cureton, Harrison and McGlashan relished in the wet weather.
The adverse conditions didn't help the quality of play, as passes were misplaced and zipped out of reach of attackers as both sides looked for a breakthrough.
The Robins looked more comfortable in attack than their opposition in the adverse conditions.
Henderson was the sixth player of the afternoon to be cautioned as he brought down Craig Braham-Barrett on the left wing and a goalmouth scramble ensued from the resulting free kick.
Josh Lillis looked lost in his own six yard box and Troy Brown was on hand to snatch the lead.
Brown's goal was his first competitive goal in a Ruby and White shirt.
Dale rung the changes with 20 minutes remaining, Tute, Donelly and Hery replaced Vincenti, Allen and Cummins.
The substitutions changed the game and had an immediate effect, revitalising the Dale attack as the clouds lifted.
Joe Rafferty's excellent cross found the head of Ian Henderson and his glancing effort beat the flailing Scott Brown but dropped just wide of goal.
The wideman came close again a minute later.
Henderson tracked the edge of the 18-yard box with the ball at his feet before unleashing a right footed shot just over the bar as he tried to pick out the top right corner of the net.
Five minutes after after joining the field of play, Donnelly broke into the Robins 18-yard box and his goal bound effort from a narrow angle was parried out of danger by Scott Brown.
It was almost third time lucky for Henderson as he picked up a loose ball in the Robins 18-yard box but once again couldn't manage to strike his effort on target.
A goal looked to be coming for the visitors and it eventually came nine minutes from time.
Donnelly's cross from the right wing evaded the Robins back line and was met by the head of Henderson at the back post. It was a good attacking header low past Brown and crept into the near corner of the Cheltenham net.
The Robins had a chance to reinstate their lead from the restart.
The ball fell kindly to Russ Penn on the edge of the box and the Captain had time to pick his spot but instead went for power over placement and his shot glanced over the crossbar.
The visitors weren't content with a draw and pressed for another. Their breakaway on the right wing almost secured Henderson's second.
Bastien Hery's whipped ball across the face of goal narrowly evaded the onrushing Henderson.
However deep in stoppage time, Henderson's lobbed effort from 10-yards left Scott Brown stranded and secured all three points for Dale in front of their traveling fans.
Full Time: Cheltenham Town 1-2 Rochdale
Cheltenham Town FC (4-4-2): S. Brown (GK); Jombati, Lowe, T. Brown, Braham-Barrett; Richards, Penn (C), Taylor, McGlashan; Harrison, Cureton.
Subs not used: Roberts (GK), Elliott, Deering, Noble, Vincent, Kotwica, Gornell.
Rochdale FC (4-4-2): Lillis (GK); Rafferty, Lancashire, O'Connell, Rose; Dicker; Vincenti (Tutte '70), Lund, Allen (Donnelly '70), Henderson; Cummins (Hery '70)
Subs not used: Bennett, Eastham, Thomson (GK), Bunney.
Referee: Mr. Gavin Ward
Attendance: 2887 (244 visitors)
Star Man: Russ Penn