The Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers met for the fourth time in the past two years and the second straight year in the postseason from a frigid Lambeau Field where temperatures hovered slightly above zero.
The game would not be decided until the final three seconds as the 49ers kicked a field goal to win 23-20 as time expired to improve to 4-0 in their past four meetings.
San Francisco did all the scoring in the first quarter on a pair of Phil Dawson field goals from 22 and 25 yards, respectively as the 49ers drives stalled in the red zone. The 49ers led 6-0 after one quarter of play with Aaron Rodgers yet to even complete a pass for the Packers.
The Packers offense got moving to start the second quarter as the Packers used a 14 plays to drive 70 yards in 7:18 with Rodgers connecting with Jordy Nelson on a five-yard touchdown pass to give the home team a 7-6 lead.
On the ensuing possession 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick had a 42-yard run to put the 49ers deep into Packer territory and later set up a 10-yard Frank Gore touchdown to take back the lead a mere five plays later.
The Packers would get a 34-yard field goal from Mason Crosby as the half ended to head into the locker room trailing 13-10.
After a scoreless third quarter Mike McCarthy rolled the dice with the Packers trying to get some momentum and wake up the frozen home crowd and elected to go for it on 4th-and-2 from the San Francisco 28 with 13:32 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Rodgers escaped the pressure from Ray McDonald who looked like he was going to sack the Packers quarterback, but he slipped through his grasp and found Randall Cobb for the completion to the 4-yard line.
The Packers would score two plays later on a one-yard plunge from fullback John Kuhn, only his second touchdown of the season, to give the Packers a 17-13 lead.
The lead, however, was brief as the 49ers responded with another quick score as Kaepernick delivered a strike to Vernon Davis who was double-teamed for a pretty 28-yard touchdown just four plays and 1:35 after the Packers took the lead.
With a combination of strong from Packers running back Eddie Lacy and a clutch reception by Cobb, the Packers drove deep into 49ers territory before settling for a 24-yard field goal by Crosby to tie the game for the first time since it was 0-0 with 5:09 remaining.
Facing a 3rd-and-8 with 1:13 remaining Kaepernick was blitzed by Jarrett Bush eluded the rush as he scrambled around the left end to pick up 11-yards to extend the 49ers drive at the 28. In last year’s playoff game, Kaepernick ran for a quarterback record 181 yards and his feet gave the Packers fits again as he ran for 98 yards on seven carries.
Veteran kicker Phil Dawson was coming off a game-winning kick in Week 17 and the 38-year-old lined up for a 33-yard try form the right hash with three seconds remaining and he drilled it for the win to advance to the second round of the playoffs.
The 49ers take on the No. 2 seed Carolina Panthers on Sunday in Charlotte where the conditions for this game will be downright tropical with a high of 58 with the game on Fox.