The Blue Devils' win at North Carolina in February was one of the highlights of the year in Duke ...

The Chronicle's top 10 of 2016: Landmark wins against North Carolina in 4 sports

With the end of 2016 quickly approaching, The Chronicle's sports department takes a look back at the biggest sports stories of the year. Each day, The Blue Zone will review a major game, event or storyline that helped shape the course of the year in Blue Devil athletics.

Coming in at No. 6 on our list: Four different Duke teams came up with significant victories against ranked North Carolina teams this year, helping the Blue Devils gain some momentum in the Tobacco Road rivalry even though the Tar Heels dominated the overall rivalry once again. 

The first of these wins came Wednesday, Feb. 10., in a dual wrestling meet that began just two hours after the Tar Heels’ previous contest. Duke stunned then-No. 14 North Carolina in a 21-17 victory as Thayer Atkins, Mitch Finesilver and Connor Bass contributed with key victories in their respective weight classes. 

Their performances set the stage for heavyweight Brendan Walsh, a redshirt senior, who conquered North Carolina’s Cory Daniel to give the Blue Devils a decisive 19-17 lead and seal the team's breakthrough win. It was Duke's first victory against North Carolina since 2004.

Just a week later, another Blue Devil team—this time men's basketball—traveled to Chapel Hill, where they took on the fifth-ranked Tar Heels. 

With about seven minutes remaining in the back-and-forth game, then-sophomore Grayson Allen was rejected by North Carolina's Justin Jackson, who then followed up the play with a putback on the offensive end to give the Tar Heels an eight-point lead. 

But coming out of the timeout, Duke freshman Brandon Ingram scored six straight points to get the then-No. 20 Blue Devils right back in position for the upset. Fellow rookie Luke Kennard later hit a go-ahead 3-pointer from the right wing with 2:40 left, and later on, with Duke down by one, he came up with a huge deflection. The errant pass from North Carolina ended up in Allen's hands, and the All-American made the game-winning free throws after getting fouled in transition with 1:09 remaining.

Blue Devil freshman Derryck Thornton blocked Tar Heel point guard Joel Berry on North Carolina's final possession to seal the win, which came after Duke lost then-junior Matt Jones due to an ankle injury early in the contest.

The third major Duke win in 2016 against the Tar Heels happened Oct. 22, when the Blue Devil field hockey team captured its first-ever ACC regular-season title with a resounding 3-0 shutout. 

After giving up a 1-0 halftime lead to lose 3-2 to North Carolina in the teams' first matchup of the season, then-No. 2 Duke came out strong against the then-No. 4 Tar Heels in their Durham rematch, scoring two goals in the first half before sealing the deal eight minutes after halftime. Prior to the contest, the Tar Heels had won 15 of the previous 16 matchups in the Tobacco Road Rivalry, so the breakthrough win was momentous for the Blue Devil program in more ways than one.

Finally, Duke football took down then-No. 15 North Carolina Nov. 10, winning its first ACC game of the year. 

After the first quarter, the Blue Devils trailed 14-0, and it appeared as if this matchup was going to end the same way the teams’ previous two had—with blowout wins for the Tar Heels. However, Duke and quarterback Daniel Jones had a strong second quarter to tie the game at 21 going into halftime, and Jones scored his third touchdown of the game at the end of the third quarter on a jump pass to make the score 28-24 before North Carolina kicked a field goal on the ensuing drive. 

Strong defensive stands kept the fourth quarter scoreless for both sides, and the Blue Devils ultimately came up with the 28-27 victory to give their fans a reason to storm the field for the third time in five years.

READ MORE on the major wins against North Carolina in 2016:

With chip on their shoulders, Blue Devils stun Tar Heels in Chapel Hill 

Dean Dome thriller: Duke men's basketball stuns North Carolina 74-73 after Jones injures ankle

Tobacco Road warriors: Blue Devils add another comeback to the list against the Tar Heels

MISSION COMPLETE: Duke field hockey captures first ever ACC regular-season title with 3-0 victory against North Carolina

RAMS SILENCED: Duke football stuns North Carolina 28-27 for first ACC win 

Defensive stands highlight Duke football's upset of North Carolina

Check back tomorrow to see what comes in at No. 5 in our countdown of the top Duke sports stories of 2016.

A look at the rest of our top 10 countdown to date:

10. Duke rowing makes first-ever NCAA championship

9. Duke football rallies to stun Notre Dame as injuries mount

8. Grayson Allen returns for junior season but earns suspension for 3 tripping incidents

7. Duke baseball makes NCAA tournament for first time since 1961

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