Carl Carr's 96-yard fumble return for a touchdown and Ethan Horton's one-yard scoring dive in the third period enabled North Carolina to hold off visiting Duke.
With the Tar Heels holding the two-point lead in the final minutes at Durham, N.C., Duke moved from its 16 to the six, helped by a 49-yard pass from quarterback Steve Slayden to John White. Ken Harper came on for a 26-yard field goal try, but Ted Million snapped the ball over Harper's head and Noel McEachern recovered at the 46.
Harper had given the Blue Devils a 3-0 lead in the second quarter and Duke was about to increase it when Carr grabbed Tracy Smith's fumble and outran Slayden to the end zone. It was the longest fumble return for a score in ACC history, breaking the record of 89 yards set by Virginia's Bryan Shumock against Virginia Tech in 1979.
It was the first collegiate touchdown for Carr, from T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Va.
"That's the biggest play in my life," Carr said. "It's a linebacker's dream to return a ball for a touchdown. I had my mind straight on the end zone. Barry James made a great hit and I was in the right place at the right time. That ball popped up and I went to the end zone."
Duke finished at 2-9, 1-5 in the ACC. North Carolina finished 5-5-1, 3-2-1.