But Paul capped his scoring with a pair of free throws with 6.5 seconds left to seal the win. Wake Forest students stormed the floor in celebration of the Deacons' second home win over Duke in two years.
Luol Deng led the Blue Devils with 20 points, Daniel Ewing scored 19, Shelden Williams had 18, and Chris Duhon 12. J.J. Redick was held to two points and without a field goal for the first time in his career.
Justin Gray had 17 points, and Eric Williams, who had his streak of 50 consecutive starts snapped three games ago when he was benched, ended a nearly six-week long slump. He had 16 points and 11 rebounds in a reserve role and gave Wake Forest a strong inside presence.
After Paul scored on a fast-break layup that drew a foul, and Trent Strickland added a basket for an 85-80 Wake Forest lead, the game tightened up on Ewing's 3-pointer and a follow from Deng that made it 85-82 with 39 seconds to go.
Eric Williams made two free throws to put Wake back up by five, but Ewing's basket with 16 seconds left cut it to 87-84.
Strickland made one of two free throws, and after Duke turned it over on Paul's steal, he made both his free throws to seal the win.
The game got off to a rough and physical start with Redick shoving Paul in the face away from the basket, but only receiving an offensive foul for it. Although Paul partially provoked it by talking trash before the swat, he was stunned Redick wasn't called for a technical but didn't back down and responded with a long steely stare.
It was the first of a flurry of stare-downs, shoves, tie-ups and fouls.
Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser was called for a technical for his reaction on a call against the Deacons. Duke's Nick Horvath was hit with a technical for swatting at Strickland after the two locked up and Strickland taunted him with a wide-eyed glare.
That prompted Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski to scream at the referees to "Control the game!" while admonishing the Blue Devils to compose themselves.
After a brief conference with the coaches, the referees tried to restore order with quick whistles. They called 19 personal fouls in the first half and 38 for the game.
Ewing was about the only one to remain calm during the tense first half, hitting three of his five 3-pointers to help Duke out to a 44-39 lead at the break.