Both teams went into the crucial game with identical records and knowing that a win would guarantee them a spot in the play-offs.
In a tense showdown that was hit be torrential weather in the second half, it was the Saints who edged ahead early on through two field goals from Shayne Graham - bought in during the week to replace Garrett Hartley, who was waived after his poor season got worse with two missed kicks against the St.Louis Rams two weeks back.
In truth it was a scrappy game, with both quarterbacks, Drew Brees and Cam Newton failing to get the protection they required which forced them to concede yards on a regular basis.
Bees in particular was struggling badly, throwing two interceptions and getting sacked no less than six times. Newton didn't far much better, being tagged four times overall.
The first real moment of quality in the match came as DeAngelo Williams blasted a hole in the Saints scrimmaging line to score the first touchdown of the game in the second quarter.
A Graham Gano field goal made it 10-6 in the third, then out of nowhere the Saints came back into the game.
Brees got off a rare pass to Jimmy Graham, who charged up to the field to put his team on the front foot.
From there they homed in on the Panthers end zone, with Brees finding Graham once more to put them in the lead with six minutes remaining.
Having lost at the Superdome earlier this month that Panthers weren't to be outdone this time, and Newton came up with the goods, finding Ted Ginn to make up 38 yards before he threw the winning touchdown pass to Domenik Hixon.
The Saints tried to claw their way back into the game with seconds left as Brees launched an all-or-nothing pass up the field but it wasn't to be.
The Panthers went through to the play-offs, while the Saints are sweating on their place with one game to go.