UNC improved to 10-2 overall and 2-2 in ACC play with the win, while the host Demon Deacons fell to 8-5 overall and 0-4 in ACC play.
"It was certainly an unusual start," UNC coach Karen Shelton said. "I really admire the way Wake Forest played today - they're very skillful and they work exceptionally hard. It took all our effort to combat what they threw at us, and we were fortunate to be playing with a lead for most of the game. The game was probably closer than the score indicates - I'm proud of our team for handling Wake's intensity and pressure."
Tar Heel senior Sinead Loughran scored the game's first goal just two minutes into the action, on an unassisted shot from 10 yards out. Wake Forest countered quickly, with Taylor Rhea scoring off a rebound less than a minute later.
With the game tied at 1-1, sophomore Emily Wold scored the gamewinner 3:17 into the action, on an assist from sophomore Nina Notman. Wold struck again less than three minutes later, putting the Tar Heels up 3-1 in the sixth minute of play.
Carolina sophomore Casey Di Nardo added another goal just before halftime, scoring off a fast break in the 33rd minute of play to put UNC up 4-1 heading into the break.
The second half's only goal came in the 66th minute, when the Demon Deacons scored on a penalty corner. Rhea again had the goal, assisted by Emily Conroe and Jess McFadyen.
UNC finished with 28 shots to 14 by Wake. The Tar Heels had seven penalty corners, and Wake had four.
Valerie Dahmen played all 70 minutes in goal for Wake Forest, making nine saves. Wake also had a defensive save, from Heather Wiley on a shot by Di Nardo.
Next up for UNC is another ACC game, on Saturday (Oct. 19) at Henry Stadium against No. 6 Boston College. The Tar Heels host Davidson next Sunday (Oct. 20) and will celebrate Senior Day. Both games begin at 1 p.m.
No. 2 North Carolina 4, No. 15 Wake Forest 2
Shots: UNC 28 (12/16), WFU (11/3)
Penalty corners: UNC 7 (2/5); WFU 4 (3/1)
Defensive saves: WFU 1 (Heather Wiley)
Records: UNC 10-2 (2-2 ACC); Wake Forest 8-5 (0-4 ACC)