It all came unraveled on one play.
Chris Givens took a 66-yard pass from Tanner Price for a touchdown with 6:52 left, and that lifted the Demon Deacons to their 12th straight victory over Duke, 24-23 on Saturday.
The Blue Devils (3-4, 1-2) rallied from a 17-0 deficit by scoring 23 straight points and holding Wake Forest (5-2, 4-1) to nine offensive plays and one total yard in the second half before the big play that ultimately doomed them.
"It's dDejGa vu again," Duke nose tackle Charlie Hatcher said. "This sucks. We have to put two halves together. Wake did that. We didn't. Coach said we didn't play hard in the first half and we came out and said we would not let them score, and we did that until the end."
Backup quarterback and short-yardage specialist Anthony Boone had two short touchdown runs for the Blue Devils, who took a six-point lead on Will Snyderwine's third field goal with 7:14 remaining.
Wake Forest struck back on its next play. Price fired a quick pass to Givens, who made a nifty move to get by slipping defender Zach Greene before dashing down the sideline and eluding a few other defenders who tried to push him out of bounds. That gave Givens four TD catches of at least 45 yards this season.
"When I caught it, I was just trying to get upfield," Givens said. "I got upfield, and saw I had some opportunities to make the play, and I just wanted to get in the end zone, and that's what happened."
Duke crossed midfield only once after that, moving to the Wake Forest 40 before Sean Renfree's fourth-down pass for Donovan Varner sailed high with 1:20 left. Duke forced a three-and-out and got the ball back with 13 seconds left before Kenny Okoro intercepted Renfree's last-gasp attempt and allowed time to expire during the return.
"It comes down to finishing games," Duke receiver Conner Vernon said. "They did it, and we didn't. It's frustrating. I know we're a lot better than that. We won the second half but not the game."
Renfree completed his first 12 attempts and finished 28 of 45 for 213 yards for Duke, which was denied its first victory in the series since 1999.
"It was a tale of two halves and we couldn't overcome the poor job I did in the first half," coach David Cutcliffe said. "The bottom line is that in all of the areas a head coach is responsible for, we were poor. We were more than poor, and they overcome both me and Wake Forest."
Price finished 15 of 25 for 215 yards with two scoring passes to Givens, who finished with six catches for 147 yards and hit triple digits in yards receiving for the fourth straight game. The two also hooked up from 26 yards out. Brandon Pendergrass finished with 43 yards rushing and a 2-yard touchdown.
Snyderwine put Duke on the board with a 26-yard field goal with 4 seconds before the break. He added a 38-yarder midway through the third to cap the first of two straight 15-play scoring drives.
Boone's 1-yard scoring run on a fourth-and-goal pulled the Blue Devils to 17-13 with just over 2 minutes left in the third, and the redshirt freshman gave Duke its first lead when his 2-yard quarterback draw made it 20-17 with 11:35 remaining.
Then, after the Demon Deacons' third straight three-and-out, Snyderwine kicked a 19-yard field goal to make it a six-point game. Seconds after that, Price found Givens for the game-deciding play.
In the last two games, the teams combined for nine touchdowns that covered at least 30 yards. Each team has scored at least 30 points in the last four meetings, and this marked the Demon Deacons' eighth victory during their winning streak that was decided by one possession.
"It was not real good for my blood pressure today," Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said, "but it was good to get a win."