It seems that this expression dates back to early
sporting events in which the score was notched into wooden sticks called
tallies. When a last minute score brought victory it came to be known as
the "nick in time".
The first recorded use of the word nick meaning "the precise moment" is in the
1570s, and appears to have been a relatively common expression by the late
sixteenth century. Nick of time is first recorded in the 17th century.
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