Despite just shooting 52 percent (14-27) from the free-throw line, the Pirates found a way to extend their record to 7-2 on the season in front on their home fans inside Minges Coliseum.
ECU led 61-59 when Tashan Newsome was fouled by Shamarr Bowden with two seconds remaining. After making the front end of a one-and-one, Newsome missed the second to seal the Runnin' Bulldogs fate.
Maurice Kemp was a rebound short of a double-double while scoring a game-high 22 points while Robert Sampson finished with 6 points and 15 rebounds.
The Pirates led for the vast majority of the game, but with 6:14 left in the second half, Donta Harper dunked on a fastbreak to give Gardner-Webb its first lead at 55-53.
The Runnin' Bulldogs were able to stay close and competitive by shooting 50 percent (9-18) on three-pointers. Harper led the team in scoring with 14 points while sharpshooters Kevin Hartley and Max Landis finished with 12 points.
Another factor that helped the visitors was turnovers. The Pirates raced out to a 20-8 in the first half when they uncharacteristically began giving the ball away. The Runnin' Bulldogs went on a 8-0 run and were able to stay within striking distance from that point on. At halftime, ECU had 11 turnovers and finished with 16.
The Pirates will go on the road to face a very talented Massachusetts team on Dec. 22 before returning home Dec. 29 to host NCAA bracket-buster Norfolk State.
Gardner-Webb drops to 7-6 on the season and will return home to entertain Spalding on Saturday.