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NEW HAVEN — This is why Harvard’s seniors came back after COVID wiped out last year. They couldn’t let the 2019 season, when the Crimson lost their final five games, be the enduring memory of their career.

“Obviously the way we finished out the season was less than ideal,” said captain Jordan Hill. “We knew that we were better than that. That was on everybody’s minds.”

So the Crimson wrote an improbable ending of their own here Saturday afternoon, driving 66 yards in 37 seconds with no timeouts to shock Yale 34-31 on Luke Emge’s 12-yard touchdown toss to Kym Wimberly with 22 seconds left before a crowd of 49,500 at the Bowl.

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“Karma is real,” declared Harvard coach Tim Murphy, whose varsity (8-2, 5-2 Ivy) won its final three games after two dispiriting losses to Princeton and Dartmouth. “These kids played like champions. They’re actually one play away from a 10-0 season. We couldn’t have asked for a better storybook make-things-right ending.”

After losing here 50-43 in double overtime two years ago after leading by two touchdowns with less than two minutes to play, the Crimson badly wanted a victory here. After 40 minutes they were well on their way, up 27-17. Aidan Borguet had scored on a 1-yard run, linebacker Kobe Joseph had returned a blocked punt for a 35-yard touchdown, Emge had thrown an 11-yard scoring pass to Ledger Hatch, and Jonah Lipel had kicked a pair of 47-yard field goals.

But the Bulldogs (5-5, 4-3), who’d averaged 30 points a game, don’t play dead for nobody.

“We responded numerous times in the game,” said Yale coach Tony Reno. “There are plenty of things that happened that didn’t quite go our way. But we kept fighting, fighting, fighting to get ourselves back into it and then take the lead.”

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Spencer Alston fought his way up the middle for a 12-yard touchdown and Nolan Grooms, the scrambling, slinging sophomore who’d already pitched touchdowns to Darrion Carrington (17 yards) and JJ Howland (30 yards), found David Pantelis for a 27-yarder to put the hosts ahead 31-27 with 7:48 to play.

Harvard fans storm the field at the Yale Bowl to celebrate their team’s victory in New Haven, Conn.
Harvard fans storm the field at the Yale Bowl to celebrate their team’s victory in New Haven, Conn.Nathan Klima for The Boston Globe/The Boston Globe

That’s how it still was with two minutes left and Yale with the ball in Harvard territory and a chance to run out the clock. But the Crimson forced a fourth-down incompletion and took over on their own 34 with 59 seconds left.

“Even if the ship’s going down you stay positive,” Murphy said. “We made the big plays when we absolutely had to.”

Emge, a junior who’d began the season as the third-string quarterback, found tight end Tyler Neville for 12 yards. Then, after an incompletion, he saw Wimberly sprinting down the middle and hit him for 42 yards to the Yale 12. Plenty of time to win. The question was, how?

Twice Emge went to Adam West, his 6-7 receiver, but both bids were batted away. So he looked again for Wimberly, who’d been a game-day decision because of an injury. When he came down with the ball in the corner of the end zone there was bedlam on the visiting sideline — with a tinge of apprehension.

Harvard had beaten Princeton in their five-overtime game only to have the winning points overturned on a review, which the league later acknowledged should not have been allowed.

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“With all that replay stuff today you’re thinking they’re going to come back and say, we’re going to review it,” said Murphy. “And I’m thinking, `Oh, man, not again. Please.’”

There was no review this time. All Harvard had to do was stop Yale for the final 18 seconds, a task made easier because Reno had used his final two timeouts when Harvard was on the 12. Grooms completed passes to Howland and Mason Tipton and got Yale to its own 33, but there would be no more last-minute miracles. Not this year.

“Sometimes you give all you have and you don’t get the outcome you want,” said Reno. “We’ve been on the other side of this one. Give credit to Tim and the team from the north, they did a great job. They made a play at the end of the game in the corner of the end zone with no timeouts.”

Harvard quarterback Luke Emge looks for a pass during the fourth-quarter.
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Harvard quarterback Luke Emge looks for a pass during the fourth-quarter. :Nathan Klima for The Boston Globe/The Boston Globe
Yale senior Jaylan Sandifer looks for a way around Harvard cornerback Khalid Thomas during the second quarter.
Yale senior Jaylan Sandifer looks for a way around Harvard cornerback Khalid Thomas during the second quarter.Nathan Klima for The Boston Globe/The Boston Globe
Harvard senior B.J. Watson (left) runs with the ball after making a catch during the second quarter  against Yale.
Harvard senior B.J. Watson (left) runs with the ball after making a catch during the second quarter against Yale. Nathan Klima for The Boston Globe/The Boston Globe