The Titans, who won four consecutive games by four or fewer points earlier this season, got involved in a nail-biter with the 49ers, who were the kings of narrow defeats when they dropped five in a row by three or fewer.
However, it was the 49ers' turn to win a close one, dealing the Titans a crippling blow to their bid to win the AFC South or capture a wild-card playoff berth.
"It's disappointing," Titans coach Mike Mularkey said. "We've won a lot of these games, these types of games. Again, we had a chance to win all the way down to the last play of the game, and that's all you can ask from your team, that you have a chance. And we certainly had plenty."
San Francisco kicker Robbie Gould noted that he got a firsthand view of the Titans' disappointment after drilling his 48-yard, game-winning kick.
"My favorite part of being a kicker is looking over at the other sideline after you make a kick like that," he said. "Everybody's silent."
Gould disclosed a surprising motivation for being the hero Sunday: He was tired of being the goat.
In his mind, anyway.
Gould, who has made his last 20 field-goal attempts and all but one of his 20 extra-point tries this season, missed two kicks earlier this season that he thought led directly to defeats.
He missed a PAT in Week 3 against the Los Angeles Rams with the 49ers having closed within 34-26 in the fourth quarter.
The 49ers eventually had to try for a two-point conversion, which failed, in a 41-39 loss.
Three weeks later, he missed a 47-yard field goal try at Washington with the 49ers down 17-10 in the third quarter.
San Francisco wound up losing the game 26-24.
"Every point matters in this league," he said. "Those kicks fuel me every day."
The general rule of thumb with the 49ers in recent years was: You lead the club's tight ends in receiving, you get traded.
It happened the last two seasons with Vernon Davis and Vance McDonald.
The 49ers also lost another good one to free agency in 2013 -- Delanie Walker, who on Sunday made his first return to the San Francisco Bay Area since the move.
Walker had a 4-yard touchdown reception among five catches for 37 yards. He also had a touchdown catch when the 49ers visited the Titans in 2013.
But Walker dropped a potential touchdown catch early in the game and fumbled the ball away in the second quarter, leading a San Francisco field goal.
One reason the 49ers keep shuffling tight ends: They have more good ones waiting their turn.
Garrett Celek was one of the stars in Sunday's win. He hauled in a 5-yard pass -- the 49ers' only touchdown of the game -- in the second quarter, and he grabbed a 41-yard pass on the first play after Tennessee took a 20-16 lead in the fourth quarter.
"I know I've been primarily a blocker in the past," said Celek, whose 350 receiving yards last season were 41 fewer than McDonald, now with the Pittsburgh Steelers. "To be able to really affect the game more than just in the run phase, it feels great."
The Titans sustained the biggest injury of the day when cornerback Logan Ryan had to leave in the second quarter with a sprained ankle. He could not return to the action.
The 49ers lost receiver Aldrick Robinson to head and wrist injuries in the first quarter.