Greg Little ran for a career-high 154 yards and the go-ahead 25-yard score in overtime to lead North Carolina past Duke, 20-14 on Saturday.
The converted wide receiver also had a leaping 7-yard touchdown to tie it midway through the fourth quarter for the Tar Heels (4-8, 3-5 Atlantic Coast Conference), who closed their first season under coach Butch Davis with yet another win against their nearby rival.
Thaddeus Lewis threw a pair of touchdown passes to Jomar Wright for the Blue Devils (1-11, 0-8), who missed field goals on the final play of regulation and the first possession of overtime to suffer their 25th straight ACC loss.
The question now is whether it will be the final setback for coach Ted Roof, whose future has been a constant source of speculation in recent weeks.
Roof fell to 6-45 as coach here since taking over for the fired Carl Franks midway through the 2003 season. Saturday's loss came in typical painful fashion for the Blue Devils, who took a 14-7 lead early in the fourth quarter and had a solid defensive performance most of the way before seeing it come undone in the deciding minutes.
It ended officially when Little, who became the first Tar Heel to run for more than 100 yards this year, sprinted through the right side and raced to the right side of the end zone on the first overtime play for North Carolina.
But in some ways, it seemed over a few minutes before. Duke drove to the 23-yard line and called timeout for a field goal with a second to play in regulation, only to see Nick Maggio go wide left on the 40-yard kick as time expired. The officials' ruling stopped the Blue Devils in their tracks as they began to pour onto the field - though not before one Duke player had doused Roof with a cooler of ice water to celebrate.
Then, after three plays netted only 2 yards, Joe Surgan - benched earlier this season for his kicking struggles - went wide left on a 40-yarder for the lead to start overtime.
For the Tar Heels, meanwhile, it was exactly what they wanted to close the year. They won for the 17th time in 18 meetings dating to 1989 and head into the offseason with much more certainty after Davis signed a one-year contract extension earlier this week.
Little's big performance offset a bad day from quarterback T.J. Yates, who completed 11 of 24 passes for 75 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.
Duke had its chances to win thanks mainly to a defense that held the Tar Heels to just 127 yards through the first three periods. Then, on a 15-play drive that lasted more than 7 minutes, Lewis found Wright from 4 yards out to give Duke a 14-7 lead with 14:06 left.
But the Tar Heels turned to Little, who switched positions before last week's loss at Georgia Tech, to erase the deficit. Running seven times on a nine-play drive, Little tied it at 14-all when he leapt for the left pylon and extended the ball over the goal line with 7:09 to play.