CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Vernon Davis admitted he felt a little ripped off in the 49ers' first meeting with the Carolina Panthers when he went down with a concussion in the first half.

Davis maximized his value Sunday in the divisional playoffs with one contested catch for one very important yard.

It was his only catch of the game at Bank of America Stadium, but it was one that gave San Francisco a lead it would never relinquish and helped send the franchise to the NFC Championship game for the third consecutive season.

In the teams' regular-season meeting, a 10-9 Carolina victory Nov. 10 at Candlestick Park, tight end Davis was ruled out of the game in the second quarter with a concussion. His absence was one of several reasons the 49ers offense bogged down.

On Sunday, Davis was targeted four times in the 49ers' 23-10 victory. The one pass he hauled in, a touchdown on second-and-goal as the second quarter wound down, was initially ruled incomplete because Davis' left foot didn't come down in bounds.

The clock continued to run a few seconds, which set off 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, who dashed onto the field and was given a 15-yard penalty. Meanwhile, Davis and quarterback Colin Kaepernick both pointed to the corner of the black-painted end zone, where evidence of a foot drag was presented.

Eventually, the call was reversed and ruled a touchdown. That was five seconds before halftime, a big play in a tight game and San Francisco's first touchdown against Carolina in six quarters.

Referee Carl Cheffers explained the review process in an interview with a pool reporter.

"I thought it was pretty cut and dry," he said. "I felt that the receiver stuck the ball initially on his catch. The right foot was clearly inbounds. The real question was the left foot. ... We went through two or three different angles just to make sure we had a great confirmation on the catch and with the video evidence that we had, we were able to reverse the call on the field and make it a touchdown."

Davis said that practice last week -- with, of all people, running back Frank Gore -- prepared him to make the catch. He said the routine was the same, down to the corner-of-the-field foot drag.

"For some reason, he just came over and saw me catching balls from the team trainer," Davis said. "He said, 'This is the catch you're going to need.' I said, 'Throw me a good one. Throw me a good one, Frank.' He made it tough for me, but we were catching, and I was dragging my feet.

"So when I caught that ball, I just had a flashback of me catching in practice. I was (thinking), 'That's the catch. That's the one.' "

Davis said Gore threw him 30 or 40 passes. "Frank was throwing it all types of ways, sideways, all over the place," Davis said.

Davis needed only one catch Sunday to give the 49ers an immediate payoff.

The reception was critical for the 49ers, given that Harbaugh's penalty would have forced a field goal on third-and-goal from the 16.

"Dodged a bullet, though," Harbaugh said.