Rochdale 2 (Grimes 57, Ball 60) Charlton 3 (Hollands 20, 80, Wiggins 45)
There's no disrespect - implied or otherwise - of Rochdale Football Club or Rochdale community in pinpointing a visit to Spotland as incentive enough for Charlton to haul themselves out of League One as soon as humanly possible. It's not where you want to find yourself on a rainlashed Saturday afternoon in mid-September. And obviously the locals agree. Most of them are conspicuous by their absence.
Nothing against homely little 'Dale - no, honestly - but at the turn of the century the Addicks were regularly visiting their glamorous neighbours in an area which virtually wrote the opening chapters in English football's history. These days it's Bury one week, Rochdale the next, with backbreaking treks to the likes of Hartlepool and Carlisle looming in the near future. Keep company like that for too long and you risk becoming institutionalised with them in the lower divisions.
And it's not as if Charlton effortlessly dismiss the lower orders with aristocratic hauteur. Both Rochdale and Hartlepool beat them last season, while Bury gave them all they could handle a few weeks ago. To be honest, they can be a nightmare so there was no reason to assume that the Addicks' unbeaten league record would survive a second visit to Spotland in 2011.
During a briefly chaotic spell after the interval, while Charlton surrendered a two-goal lead their effortless superiority had earned them, that seven-game record teetered on the edge of oblivion. Having outclassed their bewildered hosts during 45 minutes of pass-perfect football, they had three valuable points in the bag before inexplicably caving in.
But first things first. The Addicks were a delight to watch as they toyed with 'Dale for 45 minutes. Their passing was crisp, movement fluid, finishing clinical.
Twenty one-side minutes elapsed before the pressure eventually buckled the Lancastrians. They were surgically carved open down the left flank as attacking full back Rhoys Wiggins exchanged sharp passes with Johnnie Jackson. The skipper nipped past right back Stephen Darby to produce a sumptuous cross from the left byline. A restless bundle of energy, Danny Hollands did it justice with his downward header beating Jake Kean to claim his first goal for Charlton.
Wiggins promptly popped up at the other end to whisk Ashley Grimes' dangerous cross off David Ball's brow, while the tireless Jackson overhauled Jason Kennedy in the penalty area and was relieved that referee Steve Rushton agreed that the tackle was legitimate and booked Kennedy for diving. The home side was still in the hunt, however, until a stoppage time strike appeared to have applied an early coup-de-grace.
An unselfish team player as usual, Paul Hayes tricked his way along the left byline to drill over a low cross with the outside of his right foot. An awkward clearance broke to Wiggins, who fired a low drive into the bottom right corner. The foundation for a second-period rout had apparently been laid. Er, not quite.
Within a quarter hour of resumption, Charlton were themselves staring at defeat. They picked up confidently enough with Matt Taylor's header cleared off the line by Joe Widdowson, then Jackson's low drive skimming into the sidenet. But Rochdale served notice that they far from finished as Grimes scooped a half-chance into Ben Hamer's hands and Kennedy fired narrowly wide. They reduced their arrears when Grimes looped a clever header over Hamer from Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro's chipped centre and neatly under the bar.
Charlton's descent into panic was alarming. They were still all-at-sea as Ball resolved a bout of penalty box pinball by blasting a close range equaliser inside the left post.
Pulling themselves together, the stricked visitors struggled to regain their poise. Bradley Wright-Phillips shot was deflected wide, then Jackson's cross was sliced over his own bar by Pim Balkestein. The momentum had switched again and Scott Wagstaff, who had come in for robust treatment, broke on the right to reach Wright-Phillips' pass and force a corner off Widdowson. Jackson's deep inswinger was met beyond the far post by Hollands and headed firmly down into the opposite corner.
It scarcely needs mentioning that the last 10 minutes were spent in desperate, backs-to-the wall defence, culminating in substitute Jason Euell's clearance off the line. That's the Charlton way but the post-game arithmetic brought even more encouraging news that even Sheffield United's 3-0 victory over Colchester had failed to dislodge The Addicks from the top of League One. With identical records, the teams were separated, purely for convenience, by alphabetical order.
Don't you just love those kids down on East Street, who resisted any temptation to name their new football team Woolwich Athletic? They knew what they were doing, those little 'erberts, bless 'em one and all.
Rochdale: (4-4-2): Kean 6, Darby 6, Holness 7, Balkestein 6, Widdowson 7, Tutte 6, Jones 7, Kennedy (Adams 76), Ball 7, Grimes 7, Akpa
Akpro 7. Not used: Lucas, Barry-Murphy, Barnes-Homer, Trotman.
Charlton (4-4-2): Hamer 6, Solly 8, Morrison 7, Taylor 7, Wiggins 7, Wagstaff 7, Hollands 8, Stephens 7 (Hughes 86). Jackson 8, Hayes 7 (Euell 86), Wright-Phillips 7 (Cort 90). Not used: Sullivan, Pritichard.
Referee: Steve Rushton. Attendance: 2,909.