(Reuters) - Cam Newton and the top-seeded Carolina Panthers repelled a spirited second-half surge by their nemesis team, the Seattle Seahawks, for a 31-24 victory on Sunday to reach the National Football Conference championship.
Carolina appeared to have the game sewn up after they came out firing with two touchdowns a little over three minutes after the opening kickoff en route to a 31-0 halftime lead.
But Seattle, who entered the game as the two-time defending NFC champions and beat Carolina at this stage last year, clawed back to within seven points with about a minute to play after Steven Hauschka followed three Russell Wilson touchdown passes with a field goal.
The ensuing onside kick attempt by Seattle was recovered by the Panthers, who were then able to run out the clock.
With the win, Carolina will host the second seed Arizona Cardinals next Sunday to determine which team represents the National Football Conference at the Feb. 7 Super Bowl in San Francisco.
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue)