Houston Texans eliminated the Cincinnati Bengals in the first round of the play-offs for the second time in as many seasons following a 19-13 success.
Arian Foster rushed for 140 yards and a touchdown to secure a return trip to the number two seeded New England Patriots, a fixture where their season began to unravel with a heavy loss last month.
Foster added eight catches for 34 yards and became the first player in NFL history to rush for at least 100 yards in the first three post-season games of his career.
Houston's defence forced Cincinnati to go 0-for-9 on third down. Standout defensive performers included cornerback Jonathan Joseph, who intercepted Dalton, and JJ Watt - who had a sack, two tackles for loss of yards, two quarterback hits and two deflections of passes.
Texans quarterback Matt Schaub, who missed last season's 31-10 playoff win over Cincinnati with a foot injury, completed 29-of-38 passes for 261 yards, with one interception in the first post-season start of his career.
"I'm excited about what we did," said Schaub, whose team opened the season 11-1 but lost three of their last four regular-season games.
"To do it in front of our home crowd after the way things have gone the last month, to right the ship and come up with a victory."
Cincinnati gained only 198 yards and had 12 first downs. Their solitary touchdown came on Leon Hall's interception return.
"It's hard to put it into words," said Hall. "It's disappointing. I mean, we had a good year, but it didn't end how we wanted it to and how we planned it to. At the end of the day, they made the plays that won the game for them."
With a second straight wildcard loss in Houston, the Bengals extended one of the NFL's longest play-off droughts. They have not won a post-season game since the 1990 season.