Keith Hill felt his Rochdale side were worthy winners against promotion-chasing Exeter, even if they left it late to claim a 2-1 victory.
Two goals in the final three minutes from Ian Henderson and Bobby Grant did the damage for Dale, while defeat for Exeter sees them clinging on to a play-off place after a poor Easter in which they lost twice.
"It's a great result, it's a result we needed because we don't want to create any pressure on us and that takes a bit of pressure off with three home games to play," Hill said.
"The performance wasn't the late, late show - the goals were, but we deserved it. We played well and deserved to win the game. It is a big step in the direction towards us and most of the teams below us have four games to play, so hopefully, we can start planning for next year and get ourselves safe as soon as possible."
Hill was especially delighted with his two goalscorers as well as striker George Donnelly, who he believes can follow in the footsteps of Premier League striker Grant Holt.
"When you are losing, you keep your goalscorers on the pitch. You can't score of they are on the bench," Hill said. "Bobby was anonymous at times, but he has a lot to learn. With respect to George Donnelly, I thought his all-round performance was superb. I said to him afterwards: 'Isn't it about time you found a footballing home and settled down and started to learn?'
"I think he could maybe become the next Grant Holt. They are very similar if I am being honest with you. He is my type of player."
Jamie Cureton had given Exeter a half-time lead, but manager Paul Tisdale admitted his side had not played well.
"It was terribly disappointing because it happened so late in the game," Tisdale said. "With five minutes to go we were leading 1-0 and you just hope you can hang on considering how poor we were. You hope you can hang on and to be at that point and then concede so late, and then an injury-time winner, is very disappointing.
"We have lost the game but we are still in the play-off zone and we still have six games to go, so I can spin positives from it, but it feels so disappointing because of how poor we were as a team. I have not seen one of my teams play so poorly for a long, long time and we struggled to put passes together or play any meaningful forward play at all.