When history didn't repeat itself, the significance wasn't lost on the New York Giants quarterback.
"This is a big win for this team and for the guys who were here last year," he said.
Manning threw three touchdown passes, including the game-winner to a returning Victor Cruz, and the Giants slipped past the Cowboys 20-19 Sunday at AT&T Stadium.
A year ago, it was Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo who authored a last-second, 27-26 win that helped send the Giants on their way to a 4-12 season. This time Romo was missing and Cruz, who missed nearly two years due to injuries, was back.
The 3-yard scoring pass to Cruz with 6:13 remaining proved to be the difference in the first of two meetings between the NFC East rivals.
"To catch a pass in end zone in the fourth quarter to put us ahead is always a beautiful thing," said Cruz, who had four receptions for 34 yards.
Dallas had won five consecutive games over the Giants, including that nail-biter in the opening game of the 2015 season. The Cowboys have lost 15 of the past 16 games in which Romo was not available.
Manning shook off a third-quarter interception that led to Dallas' only touchdown. He completed 19 of 28 attempts for 207 yards, using seven receivers.
New York's comeback spoiled an impressive introduction to pro football for Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott. The rookies were given the keys to the Cowboys' offense, and they didn't disappoint.
Prescott, a fourth-round pick, was pressed into action earlier than expected with the preseason injuries to Romo and backup Kellen Moore.
The former Mississippi State star completed 25 of 45 passes for 227 yards, and he led the Cowboys to scores on their first three possessions. Each of the first two drives spanned 15 plays. Those drives ended in field goals, which would come back to haunt Dallas.
"There are some plays things that I want back, some plays that I want to re-do, but for the most part I felt like I prepared," Prescott said.
Elliott was expected to be a big cog in the attack as the fourth overall pick out of Ohio State. He carried the ball 20 times for 51 yards. The 2.5 average per rush wasn't special, but Elliott had the team's lone touchdown on an 8-yard run in the third quarter.
The game's only turnover proved costly for the Giants, as Dallas cornerback Brandon Carr easily picked off Manning on the first possession of the third quarter.
Set up deep in New York territory, the Cowboys marched in for Elliott's score that gave them a 16-13 edge.
New York's Dan Bailey kicked a 54-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter, but Cruz came through for the decisive score.
Prescott and the Cowboys got the ball back at their own 20-yard line with 1:05 remaining. The game ended on a completion to Terrance Williams, who cut back toward the middle of the field at the Giants 40-yard line.
"In my mind I was just trying to get a first down and then dive out of bounds, but it just didn't go as planned," Williams said.
The Cowboys had the ball twice after New York took the lead but couldn't come up with points.
"It was great to see the defense come up with a stop there at the end," McAdoo said. "They battled all night."
Prescott was nearly perfect on his first career NFL possession. Despite a dropped pass by slot receiver Cole Beasley, which could have been a touchdown, Prescott completed 6 of 7 passes for 49 yards.
The drive stalled inside the New York 10-yard line, leading to a 23-yard field goal by Bailey.
The Cowboys went up 6-0 on Bailey's 56-yard boot early in the second quarter.
After punts on their first two possessions, the Giants got on track and didn't take long to get into the end zone. Manning hooked up with Beckham for 45 yards before finding Larry Donnell on a 15-yard score.
New York needed just 93 seconds to go 75 yards and lead 7-6.
The Giants took a 13-9 lead into the locker room on Manning's 9-yard pass to Sterling Shepard with seven seconds left in the half. Randy Bullock missed the extra point.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett wasn't happy with the points left on the field.
"To be that productive in the first half running it and throwing it and only having nine points, that was disappointing," he said.
NOTES: Dallas CB Orlando Scandrick (hamstring) and New York LB J.T. Thomas (knee) were lost in the first half. ... Dallas started a rookie quarterback (Dak Prescott) and running back (Ezekiel Elliott) for the first time in a season opener since 1969. ... The Cowboys and Giants met in the season opener for the fifth time. Dallas won the previous four. ... Giants K Josh Brown served a one-game suspension for violating the NFL's conduct policy. ... Cowboys DEs Demarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory began serving their NFL suspensions.