Denver snapped the Memphis Grizzlies' eight-game winning streak with a 97-92 victory over the NBA's hottest team.
In a battle that raged from start to finish, home team Memphis led 92-88 with about two minutes remaining but failed to close the game out, going scoreless and making critical mistakes in the final moments.
"We got what we deserved," Marc Gasol, the Grizzlies player, said afterwards. "The last game we didn't play that well, but the other team wasn't as talented as (Denver). When you play with fire, sometimes you get burnt."
Momentum switched back and forth the whole game as the Grizzlies went up by five in the third quarter on the back of a 14-4 run, before Denver returned the favour with an 8-0 stretch that put them ahead 77-70 early in the fourth.
The Nuggets outrebounded Memphis 47-33, with Kenneth Faried grabbing 13 to go with his 13 points.
Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari made three free throws and, after JaVale McGee put visiting Denver on top 93-92, he drained a three-pointer in the last seconds to seal the win.
Gallinari finished with a game-high 26 points, McGee added 15 and eight rebounds off the bench as the Nuggets (5-6) brought a run of three straight defeats to an end.
"This is the first game on the road where I think we executed at a high level," said George Karl, the Denver coach.
"We've got to get better at making shots and I think we will once we win games, and I think confidence comes by winning."
After losing their season opener, Memphis (8-2) had run through their competition until facing Denver.
Rudy Gay led the way for the Grizzles with 22 points, while Zach Randolph put up 12 points and 13 rebounds.
Memphis coughed up two straight turnovers in the final minute, and kept putting Denver on the foul line as the game slipped away.
Despite the loss, the Grizzlies stayed a half-game ahead of San Antonio for the Southwest Division lead after the Spurs lost to the Los Angeles Clippers.
David West scored a season-high 30 points as the Indiana Pacers beat winless Washington 96-89, condemning the Wizards to their ninth straight defeat.
The 0-9 start for the only winless team in the NBA sets a franchise record for their worst ever, beating last season's 0-8 effort, and was met with boos from the home fans.
Roy Hibbert also starred for the Pacers with 20 points and 12 rebounds.
Stephen Curry poured in 31 points as the Golden State Warriors edged out the Dallas Mavericks 105-101 in overtime.
Curry had just 11 points heading into the final 12 minutes of regulation but turned on the style in the fourth quarter and overtime. David Lee added 17 points and 19 rebounds.
Ramon Sessions' 23 points helped the Charlotte Bobcats see off Milwaukee 102-98 despite a big night for Monta Ellis, who scored 31 points for the Bucks but missed a crucial late three-point attempt.
Chris Paul scored 19 points to lead the Los Angeles Clippers to a 92-87 win over the San Antonio Spurs.
The Utah Jazz eased past the Houston Rockets 102-91 and the Atlanta Hawks were 81-72 winners over the Orlando Magic.