The ball came off Sam Martin's foot, and a groan immediately filled Ford Field.
Martin's poor punt — a 28-yarder that was marked out of bounds at the Cincinnati 49-yard line — gave the Bengals all the field position they would need Sunday in the final minute against Detroit.
Three plays later, Mike Nugent kicked a 54-yard field goal as time expired to beat the Lions 27-24.
"I thought — we all thought — they were going to bring pressure," Martin said. "I'm trying to get it off quick, prevent a block and keep it away from the returner at the same time. A half-inch inside can make that big of a difference. That's what happened there."
The Lions (4-3) rallied from an 11-point, third-quarter deficit and had a chance to win late in the fourth, but two punts put Detroit in a tough spot. The first was by Cincinnati's Kevin Huber, and it pinned the Lions at their own 6 with 1:43 to play.
After Detroit's offense stalled, Martin — a rookie taken in the fifth round of this year's draft — mishit his effort.
"I told him what I told the rest of the team," coach Jim Schwartz said. "This is a tough, bitter loss, and we need to learn from these mistakes and not make them again."
Cincinnati had only 26 seconds left, but after starting around midfield, the Bengals were able to make it into range for Nugent's game winner.
The AFC North-leading Bengals (5-2) won a game for the second straight week by the same score thanks to Nugent's foot. He made an overtime kick to give Cincinnati a win after it blew a 14-point, fourth-quarter lead at Buffalo.
Coach Marvin Lewis said before this game, he jotted down a yard line to mark Nugent's range.
"I wrote 36 on my sheet," he said.
That's exactly where the ball was snapped on the final play. Andy Dalton, who had three touchdown passes, threw two short passes to gain 15 yards and called the team's last timeout to set up the winning field goal.
Dalton was 24 of 34 for 372 yards, the third-highest total of his career, and didn't throw an interception. Detroit's Matthew Stafford connected with Calvin Johnson on two of his three TD passes.
Stafford was 28 of 51 for 357 yards and didn't throw an interception. Johnson caught nine passes for 155 yards, and his second score was one of his most impressive because he leaped to catch a 50-yard pass while surrounded by three Bengals in the end zone to make it 24-all early in the fourth.
"I didn't even see much of that play, because the guy coming through hit me, but I did see him make one of the best catches I've ever seen," Stafford said.
The Bengals had a pretty good pitch-and-catch combination, too.
Cincinnati scored the first time it had the ball when Dalton connected with A.J. Green on an 82-yard TD, the second-longest pass of his career, after the receiver got past cornerback Chris Houston. Green finished with six catches and 155 yards receiving.
Detroit responded with a 16-play, 80-yard drive capped by Stafford's 3-yard scoring pass to Brandon Pettigrew.
The Lions got inside the Bengals 20 on two straight drives in the second quarter, but had to settle for two kicks and had the second one blocked.
David Akers made a 36-yard field goal to give Detroit a 10-7 lead.
Nugent missed a 47-yard kick following an unsportsmanlike penalty on Jermaine Gresham for pushing an official's hand off him.
Akers then had a field goal blocked and returned into Detroit territory, and that helped the Bengals retake the lead.
Dalton lofted a 12-yard pass into the back of the end zone, where only Marvin Jones could catch it. He did, putting Cincinnati up 14-10 in the last minute of the first half.
The Bengals opened the second half with a score, too, when Dalton connected with twisting tight end Tyler Eifert on a 32-yard TD.
Detroit scored a TD on the ensuing drive on Stafford's 27-yard pass to Johnson to pull within four points.
The Bengals regained their seven-point cushion on Nugent's 48-yard field goal late in the third quarter.
The Lions tied the game at 24 early in the fourth on the heave to Johnson, but they couldn't score again.
NOTES: Bengals CB Leon Hall left the game early with an Achilles tendon injury. "It seems pretty significant," Lewis said. ... The Lions lost starting OTs Riley Reiff (hamstring) and Corey Hilliard (knee) during the game, but Reiff was able to return. ... Bengals DT Devon Still (elbow) and Lions CB Rashean Mathis (groin) were also hurt.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org