Cologna had wrapped up the overall World Cup title prior to travelling to Norway and with Petter Northug withdrawing he saw this year as his chance to win the 50km race.
And he looked like he would fulfil his ambition the day before his 26th birthday as the race near its end as after nearly two-and-a-half hours racing he and Roenning broke away from the pack.
Olympic champion Cologna stalked Roenning on the last corner and made his move after the bridge with the two neck and neck as the line finishing drew closer and closer.
However Roenning drew greater reserve in the dying moments to pip Cologna by the width of a ski and take gold in a time of 2:32.27.1hours.
Cologna was recorded as being 0.6seconds behind while there was further reason to celebrate for the home crowd as Martin Johnsrud Sundby won the battle for bronze.
He crossed the finishing line 5.8 behind his Norwegian teammate Roenning with Maxim Vylegzhanin leading home four Russians a further 0.6 back.