County manager Gannon, 10 years a player at Edgeley Park, had been a Wembley loser four times with Stockport, who clinched their first promotion in 11 years.

The Hatters fell behind to Rochdale defender Rory McArdle's 23rd-minute corner, but once Nathan Stanton's own goal hauled Stockport level, Gannon's side seized control.

Anthony Pilkington headed County into a 49th-minute lead and Liam Dickinson bludgeoned home a third before Dale winger Adam Rundle set up a nerve-jangling finale with a 77th-minute volley.

Gannon lifted County from the depths of League Two in January 2006 and this win will ease the memory of two Wembley play-off final and two defeats in the final of the Autoglass Trophy.

But neutrals can only sympathise with Rochdale in their centenary year.

With only one promotion out of the bottom division in their history, Dale have long been the butt of footballing jokes and defeat in their first Wembley appearance consigned them to a 35th successive year in the fourth tier of English football.

Stockport made one change with Pilkington replacing Leon McSweeney on the right wing, while Nathan D'Laryea and Adam Le Fondre were recalled to Rochdale's starting line-up in place of the suspended David Perkins and Rene Howe respectively.

The game came to life after a chanceless first 20 minutes.

But Chris Dagnall livened things up with a more potent effort at the other end which was deflected for a corner, from which Rochdale broke the deadlock.

Kallum Higginbotham swung the ball over and Rochdale's imposing central defender McArdle hurled himself above Stockport goalkeeper Conrad Logan to force home his header from two yards.

Pilkington came within inches of restoring parity for County with a curving free-kick that had goalkeeper Tommy Lee beaten in the 30th minute, but the ball spun wide.

Within moments though County were level. Rowe played a short corner with Stephen Gleeson and swung over the return pass into the danger area.

Stanton was caught wrong side of the ball and instead of clearing could only help it over the goalline with what appeared to be his hands after it had brushed off Stockport defender Jim McNulty's head in the 33rd minute.

It got even better for County four minutes after the restart.

Michael Rose curled in a cross from the left and after the bounce evaded Rochdale's defence, Pilkington reacted sharply to head beyond Lee.

Dale skipper Gary Jones fired a low shot narrowly wide after charging unopposed to the edge of the area on the hour-mark.

But County forged into a two-goal lead in the 67th minute with the best goal of the game.

Paul Turnbull sent Pilkington free down the right and when the right winger's cross found Dickinson, the 6ft 4in forward drove home a vicious low shot that gave Lee no chance.

County could then have been out of sight within minutes. Lee saved brilliantly down to his right to keep out Rose's shot and Rowe fired into the side-netting after cutting into the box.

Rundle hauled Rochdale back into the tie with a blistering volley 10 minutes later to set up a thrilling finish.

County substitute McSweeney headed back across his own goal with his first touch and Rundle slammed home from the edge of the area.

Dale huffed and puffed for the equaliser, but County held firm for their first promotion since Dave Jones took them into the Championship in 1997.