Trailing by a goal with 50 seconds remaining, attackman Matt Danowski had a clean shot that could have tied the game.
The senior took aim from 10 yards out, but his shot glanced off the left pipe and sailed harmlessly out of bounds as No. 1 Cornell held on for a 7-6 victory, the Big Red's second straight in Koskinen Stadium.
"We knew it was going to be a one goal game coming in and they got the best of us," midfielder Sam Payton said. "Seeing them celebrate on our field last year was pretty horrible. It sucks to have them do it again."
Duke's loss to the Big Red (5-0) comes a year after Cornell defeated the Blue Devils in what was the last game of Duke's shortened 2006 season.
Despite the apparent significance of the rematch, the No. 5 Blue Devils (5-2) downplayed the importance of the game in the context of this season and the events surrounding accusations against the team last year.
"A lot worse stuff happened last year than losing to Cornell," Danowski said. "This one just hurts because we had it and we gave it away.... It hurts just as much as Loyola did."
The Blue Devils had struggled in the first half in their loss Loyola and come-from-behind victory against North Carolina, finding themselves in 5-1 and 6-1 holes in each game, respectively.
But Duke looked more assertive out of the gate against Cornell, and the Blue Devils struck first when Payton snapped off a shot as a Cornell defender knocked him to the ground, giving the home squad a 1-0 lead in the fourth minute.
Duke maintained its aggressiveness throughout the first half and tallied 20 shots to Cornell's 10 while jumping out to a 4-2 lead at halftime.
"We played with discipline, and we came out more relaxed and more confident than we did the last couple times," Danowski said. "The second half we kind of did the opposite of that."
The Big Red stormed back after the break with three unanswered goals as midfielder Brian Clayton capped off the run with a deep shot past Duke goaltender Dan Loftus. The goal gave Cornell its first lead of the game at 5-4 with 4:02 left in the third quarter.
As the two teams traded goals to knot the game at 6-6 with 14:53 left in the fourth quarter, the Blue Devils struggled against Cornell's stall offense, which resulted in just three shots for Duke in the period.
"A lot of teams sit on the ball because they don't want us to have it," Danowski said. "The little turnovers, we can't have [those] anymore. Each possession is precious to us because we don't get a lot of them anymore."
The Big Red went up for good when attackman Eric Pittard took advantage of a Ryan McFadyen holding penalty, burying a shot in the back of the cage to give Cornell a 7-6 lead with 8:54 remaining.
Danowski's shot off the crossbar was the closest Duke came to rescuing the game in the final moments, as the Blue Devils dropped their second contest in their past three tries.
Despite Duke's recent struggles, head coach John Danowski said he is not concerned with the team's performance and feels the Blue Devils have made sound progress toward tightening up its defense and running a more efficient attack.
"Sometimes lacrosse games in 60 minutes are as simple as hitting the pipe," John Danowski said. "We're still figuring out our way-the guys are still figuring out what we expect from them. It's still a learning process."
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