The Colonels had a 21-point lead in the third quarter of Thursday's match-up with Southeast Missouri State.
That seemingly comfortable lead, however, slowly started to fade away.
And with 80 seconds left in regulation, the Redhawks (13-9, 11-6) had pulled within three points.
"Players make plays," EKU coach Samantha Williams said. "Coaches can draw up all the plays we want, but players have to make plays."
The Colonels (8-12, 7-9 OVC) made just enough plays down the stretch to earn a very important victory in Cape Girardeau, Mo.
Freshman Kendall Wingler scored 20 points and four other players reached double figures in an 82-72 win, which moved EKU into eighth place in the Ohio Valley Conference standings.
The Colonels scored the final seven points of the game - all from the free throw line.
Jayla Johnson had 14 points. Anysa Jordan and Alice Recanati each had 13 points and Bria Bass had 11 points and six rebounds.
The win moved EKU a half game ahead of Eastern Illinois (9-13, 7-10 OVC) with four games left in the regular season. Only the top eight teams move on to the OVC Tournament next month in Evansville, Ind.
EKU never trailed and jumped out to a quick 9-0 lead.
The Colonels lead by as much as nine points in the first quarter, fueled by the hot shooting of Wingler. The freshman had 14 points as EKU scored a season-high 31 points in the first quarter.
"She was huge," Williams said of Wingler. "She came out and led the charge."
Foul trouble slowed the Colonels a bit in the second quarter, but they still took a 51-37 lead into halftime.
Wingler had 18 points at the break as EKU shot 61 percent from the field and hit 15-of-18 free throws.
That advantage grew to 21 points (61-40) before SEMO ended the third quarter on a 10-2 run.
That surge continued into the fourth, but EKU came up big at the free throw line. The Colonels had season-highs in free throw attempts (32) and free throws made (27) and were 9-of-10 at the line in the final quarter.
"We are a good free throw shooting team," Williams said. "We need to take advantage of that."
Kynnedy Azubke had seven points and four rebounds. Claria Rosini and Emma Hacker had two points each and Recanati had eight assists
The Colonels shot 52 percent from the field and was 5-of-11 from three-point range.
Tesia Thompson had 31 points for SEMO.
EKU is set to return to action Saturday at first-place UT-Martin.