Rochdale were handed a reality check as they went down 4-1 to Sunderland at The Stadium of Light.
Dale had not lost in September, a run spanning four matches, but were outclassed by Jack Ross’ men in the North East.
The visitors made a decent start to proceedings with the deadlock yet to be broken with fewer than ten minutes to go until half-time.
Aaron Wilbraham, who is still without a goal for Dale, ended a flowing move in disappointing fashion by scooping a shot over the bar in the visitors best opportunity of the opening 45 minutes.
Despite being very much in the contest for most of the first half, a calamitous final ten minutes before the half-time whistle blew allowed Sunderland to put the game out of sight by the start of the second half.
Josh Maja kicked off a period which which manager Keith Hill described as “self-implosion” by heading home Chris Maguire’s left wing cross.
The hosts were two ahead moments later when Oliver Rathbone brought down Maja in the box with Lyden Gooch converting beyond returning goalkeeper Josh Lillis.
Maja, the EFL Young Player of the Month for August, picked up his second goal picked up his second goal right at the end of the half, controlling Denver Hulme’s low cross and taking a touch inside Dale defender Harrison McGahey, then finishing into the far bottom corner.
That made it two goals for Maja both coming down Dale’s right side of defence but it was the hosts who also drew blood in the closing 45 minutes as Gooch also claimed a brace, his effort coming down the other flank.
It was a fine finish from the Sunderland midfielder and probably the pick of the goals for the afternoon, as he tricked his way inside from the right and curled low into the bottom left-hand corner, giving Lillis no chance.
The 1252 travelling Dale fans were given something to cheer though as Matty Done replied by steering home Jordan Williams’ low delivery.
There was no comeback to be had for the visitors though and although Hill told Dale’s club website that his side “weren’t here to make up the numbers – we were here to try and win this game,” it can hopefully act as some kind of learning experience for the players.
Dale fans will certainly hope so as they will face a similarly difficult test against League One leaders Portsmouth at Spotland next weekend.