San Francisco 49ers hold off late Dallas Cowboys fightback


The San Francisco 49ers held off a late fightback by the Dallas Cowboys to earn the first upset of the NFL play-offs.

Dallas came into wildcard weekend as the third seed in the NFC Conference so hosted the sixth seed, fellow five-time Super Bowl winners San Francisco. The 49ers never trailed and led 23-7 early in the fourth quarter, but had to hang on for a thrilling 23-17 win.

Earlier on Sunday, defending champions the Tampa Bay Buccaneers cruised to a 31-15 win over the Philadelphia Eagles.

Last week's overtime win over the Los Angeles Rams saw the 49ers clinch a play-off spot on the final day of the regular season and set up a mouthwatering clash with their old rivals Dallas.

The NFL heavyweights had three Super Bowl wins apiece between 1989 and 1996, and met in the play-offs three years running during that spell.

And their first play-off meeting since 1995 lived up to expectations, despite a slow start by Dallas.

Elijah Mitchell gave the 49ers an early lead with a rushing touchdown while San Francisco kicked three field goals to lead 16-7 at half-time, with Dak Prescott finding Amari Cooper for a 20-yard touchdown to get the Cowboys on the board.

The 49ers looked in charge when Deebo Samuel ran for their second touchdown right after Prescott was intercepted in the third quarter.

But Dallas began a pulsating fourth quarter with a fake punt to keep their drive alive and kick a field goal, before Prescott punished a Jimmy Garoppolo interception by running in a five-yard touchdown with 8:02 left.

Dallas got the ball back with 2:51 on the clock but Prescott's deep shot was just beyond the grasp of a diving Cedrick Wilson.

The Cowboys got the ball back again with just 32 seconds left and swiftly got within range of San Francisco's end zone, but rather than go for a touchdown from 41 yards, a chaotic finish saw Prescott elect to run for a few more yards and time expired as Dallas failed to spike the ball in time for one last play.

San Francisco now face another tantalising match-up in next week's divisional round away to NFC top seed the Green Bay Packers.

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