After Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott ran a QB keeper up the middle on fourth-and-1 from Dallas' 39-yard line with about five minutes to play in a tied game, the ball was spotted just short of the 40-yard line.
The chains were called out and referee Gene Steratore folded up an index card to see if there was space between the nose of the football and the pole. There was space and yet Steratore signaled a first down for the Cowboys.
"I don't want to get fined, OK?" Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said. "I'm not happy with the way things were done in a lot of different situations throughout the night. They did the best that they could. I had a different viewpoint. I saw air. It was pretty obvious. Again, they do the best they can with a tough job."
Said Raiders linebacker NaVorro Bowman: "There was still space between the ball and the stick."
The Cowboys, buoyed by the first down, marched down and kicked a 19-yard field goal with 1 minute, 47 seconds to play.
"Yeah, I don't know that I've ever seen that one," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "It seems like that's the method they use to decide. One of my concerns was that it looked like the stick was kind of on an angle. We thought that was working against us but eventually they straightened it out, brought the card out and we made it by the thickness of the card. And it was certainly a big play."
Still, Steratore was anything but clear in his conversation with a pool reporter.
Asked why he used the index card, Steratore said: "Didn't use the card to make the final decision. The final decision was made visually. The card was used nothing more than a reaffirmation of what was visually done. My decision was visually done based on the look from the pole."
How did it reaffirm?
"That was already finished," Steratore said. "The ball was touching the pole. I put the card in there and as soon as it touched, it was nothing more than a reaffirmation. The decision was made based on my visual from the top looking down and the ball touching the front of the pole."
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was a fan of the outcome, obviously.
"Well, I love any game that will allow you to just stick it in the pile and then come back and measure it with a piece of cigarette paper," Jones said.
The Raiders still had a chance to win the game in the final minute with the ball at the Cowboys' 8-yard line. But Oakland quarterback Derek Carr, diving for a game-winning touchdown at the right pylon, lost the ball and it rolled out of the end zone for a touchback, and Dallas took possession with 31 seconds remaining.
"They put me in concussion protocol," he said. "I don't know. I'm lost. I don't understand.
"They took me out and made me go into the tent. ... I was pissed off because it is the last play of the game and I am trying to help the team win."
Said Carr: "We actually had a play called, a certain play called on the other side, and then the refs made us take him out. And then we had to change our call."
ESPN Cowboys reporter Todd Archer contributed to this report.