The Cowboys were halted on their first possession of the game, and the Lions used their defensive stand to power ahead in the match as Matt Stafford evaded the pass-rush and fired deep for Golden Tate. The receiver made his defender miss a tackle and juked another to run in for a 51-yard score.
Dallas failed to muster any points on offense in reply, but a punt from Chris Jones landed inside the half-yard marker, backing the Lions up on their own goal line.
The home side looked to have forced a three and out, but a penalty against Dekoda Watson on the punt allowed the Lions another set of downs.
Detroit took full advantage as Stafford moved his team seamlessly downfield before handing the ball off to Reggie Bush, who ran over the left side of the line, evading several defenders to find the endzone for an 18-yard touchdown.
However, the Cowboys responded as Terrance Williams went from zero to hero in two plays. First he was called for an offensive pass interference penalty, but on the next play he hauled in a strike for a 76-yard touchdown.
The Lions had time to drive downfield just before the break as Stafford moved his team into field-goal range, and Matt Prater converted a 39-yard kick to hand his side a 10-point lead at AT&T Stadium.
In the second half, Dallas were handed the chance to reduce their deficit when Kyle Wilber picked off a deflected pass from Stafford, but Romo's offense couldn't score a touchdown, while Dan Bailey missed his field-goal effort from close range.
The Lions were able to edge further ahead as Prater succeeded where his opposite number failed in firing a 37-yard field goal through the posts.
However, Romo and his offense finally clicked into the gear as DeMarco Murray started to move the chains on the ground to drive his team to the goal line.
A penalty on Jason Witten stopped Murray from registering a score, but two plays later the back crossed the plane on fourth and one to bring his side back into the match.
In the fourth quarter, Bailey made amends for his miss earlier in the half as he held his nerve to fire over from 51 yards.
However, the game was to take a huge turn in Dallas's favour when a pass interference penalty against Anthony Hitchens was overturned by the officials after initially being called on the field.
The Cowboys took full advantage of the decision as their offense got the ball back and drove the length of the field, converting on one huge fourth-down play, before Romo found Williams at the back of the endzone to fire them ahead.
There was time for Stafford to launch a comeback, although the home side spurned an excellent chance to end the game when the quarterback fumbled the ball. However, DeMarcus Lawrence then dropped the ball himself, allowing the Lions to gather once more.
Lawrence returned to make the crucial play late in the game as he sacked Stafford on a fourth-down play and recovered to send his side into the divisional round and a match against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.