DURHAM, N.C. -- With the spotlight shining on him again because of good play, Duke guard Grayson Allen showed more signs of regaining a comfort level.
He picked a big stage to do so.
Allen scored 25 points and No. 18 Duke defeated No. 8 North Carolina 86-78 in a back-and-forth battle Thursday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
"There's nothing like winning at home in a big game like this," Allen said. "I know (we) had a lot of fun, our whole team did."
Allen's seventh 3 came on the possession before he fouled out with 1:02 to play.
Duke led 80-77 on its next possession and then corralled an offensive rebound. The Blue Devils made 6 of 8 free throws the rest of the way. Frank Jackson ended up with 11 points.
North Carolina missed eight of its last nine shots.
"We didn't make the plays needed to in the last three or four minutes," North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. "Credit their defense."
Allen shot 9-for-15 from the field. He was the leading scorer for Duke in the third consecutive North Carolina-Duke game.
"The last few ball games he has played so darn well," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said, noting that the Blue Devils wanted the ball in the junior's hands in certain situations. "It works when you have somebody who hits shots. Plays work when you have good players."
The big boost from Tatum, who also had nine rebounds and five assists, came at just the right time, particularly with forward Amile Jefferson in foul trouble.
"He responded to what we were telling him and Coach was telling him," Allen said.
Justin Jackson pumped in 21 points and Joel Berry had 15 points for North Carolina (21-5, 9-3). The Tar Heels share first place in the ACC with Florida State with Virginia a half-game back.
"You have to understand it only counts as one game in the loss (column)," North Carolina forward Kennedy Meeks said.
Even shooting 52.5 percent from the field wasn't good enough for the Tar Heels.
"They were very impressive the entire second half," Williams said of Duke. "Jayson was magnificent for them in the second half. They're a tough matchup."
North Carolina was 10 for 18 on free throws.
Further complicating matters for the Tar Heels was that Duke was 13-for-27 on 3-point attempts. North Carolina was 4-for-12 from long range.
"We'd like them to have fewer than that," Williams said of Duke's 3-point shooting.
Duke held a 31-30 rebounding edge against a North Carolina team that has led the country in rebounding margin for a chunk of the season.
"That's something we think should be an advantage for us and it wasn't tonight," Williams said.
Krzyzewski said: "It was a wash (on rebounding). That was a key, obviously, to the game."
North Carolina played without senior forward Isaiah Hicks, who suffered a strained hamstring in practice a day earlier. Sophomore Luke Maye made his first career start in his place.
Duke used an 8-0 spurt for a 51-43 lead early in the second half, but North Carolina countered by making its next eight shots from the field, going ahead 63-59.
Allen had 20 points and four fouls with 8:35 to play.
Allen hit three 3-pointers in barely more than the opening 10 minutes, the last of that trio sending the Blue Devils into the lead as part of a 10-2 run. His fourth 3 came as the last basket of the first half, sending Duke to a 40-39 lead.
There were 13 lead changes in the first half.
North Carolina shot 56.3 percent from the field in the first half, including 1 of 4 on 3-pointers. Duke was 6 of 15 on first-half 3s even though Kennard was 0-for-3.
North Carolina swingman Theo Pinson, who missed the team's previous three games with an ankle injury, was back. He scored six points coming off the bench.
NOTES: North Carolina leads the series 134-109, but Duke won five of the last six meetings. ... Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski was back for his second game since missing about a month following back surgery in early January. ... This was the 143rd consecutive meeting that at least one of the teams was nationally ranked. ... This marked the third meeting in a row that North Carolina was ranked higher than Duke. That hadn't happened since the 2008 and 2009 seasons. ... The Tar Heels were the first nationally ranked opponent to visit Duke this season. ... Duke is back in action Saturday afternoon against Clemson to wrap up a three-game homestand. ... North Carolina is off until Wednesday, when it visits its other neighboring rival by playing at North Carolina State.