On the decisive drive, Cincinnati took over at midfield following a short, 28-yard punt by Detroit's Sam Martin.
Andy Dalton ( 24-of-34 passing, 372 yards, three touchdowns) connected with Dane Sanzenbacher on the first play for seven yards, and followed that with an eight-yard completion to Giovani Bernard, moving the ball to the Lions' 36-yard line.
Following time-outs by both teams, Nugent was true with room to spare on his long, game-winning kick, which lifted the AFC North-leading Bengals (5-2) to a third straight win.
A.J. Green led Cincinnati's receiving corps with six catches for 155 yards and a score.
Matthew Stafford went 28-of-51 through the air for 357 yards and three TDs for the Lions (4-3).
Two of his scoring strikes went to Calvin Johnson, who finished with nine grabs for 155 yards.