Jason Terry notched 16 points and Caron Butler contributed 11 points and eight rebounds for the Mavericks, who have won two straight after dropping consecutive games to New Orleans and Chicago.
"We really had to grind this one out," said Nowitzki. "It wasn't pretty for awhile and we were down 10 or more and we fought back and really executed down the stretch."
"We got some stops and (Terry) finally got hot there in the end and made some big baskets. (Butler) got us going the start of the 4th quarter with some drives."
Tayshaun Prince and Rodney Stuckey each finished with 19 points while Jason Maxiell and Ben Gordon each scored 10 for the Pistons, who have lost three of four.
Richard Hamilton ended the game with only five points on 1-of-7 from the field in defeat.
Dallas started the game on an 11-0 run in the opening 4 1/2 minutes. The Mavericks led by as many as 14 in the first and took a 24-17 advantage heading to the second.
Ben Gordon hit a three-pointer with over six minutes left in the second to tie the game at 28, and the Pistons used a balanced attack to take a 42-38 lead heading to the locker room.
Detroit extended their lead to as many as 12 in the third quarter, but Nowitzki added 10 points in the third to keep the Mavs close. Detroit held a 61-56 margin heading to the final stanza.
"Our guys battled so hard in that third period," said Pistons head coach John Kuester. "We were making some great decisions with the basketball."
After Nowitzki hit two from the line at 6:30 to knot the game at 70, he added a deep three and mid-range jumper to give the Mavericks the lead for good.
In the final minute Nowitzki made four from the line, including two after a Stuckey jumper with 9.4 ticks remaining, to record the final margin.
Dallas has won five straight and seven of the last eight meetings in this series...Nowitzki hit 13-of-16 from the line...The Mavericks will go on a two- game road trip before hosting three straight at home...Jason Kidd finished with seven points and 10 assists for Dallas...Detroit is now 2-6 on the road this season...The Pistons won the rebounding battle, 46-42.