Jonathan Stewart scored a rushing touchdown before Cam Newton found Devin Funchess to put the hosts in control.
Hunter Henry put the Chargers on the board at the half, but after the sides exchanged field goals, Dontrelle Inman reduced the deficit when he managed to find the pylon.
However, the two-point conversion was unsuccessful and the Panthers’ defense forced a safety to close out the game.
Panthers rush into first quarter lead
Ron Rivera’s side were blown way by the Seattle Seahawks in the 40-7 defeat last weekend, but they managed to race to an early lead in the first quarter.
Graham Gano kicked a 41-yard before Carolina made the most of a short field after Kawann Short forced a fumble and Paul Soliai recovered inside San Diego territory.
Newton rushed on third down to set up a first-and-goal and on the next play Stewart leapt over the line of scrimmage and pierced the goalline for his eighth touchdown of the season.
The hosts took the 10-point lead into the second quarter, and forced another turnover with the first play of the quarter.
Rivers threw downfield, but Daryl Worley picked off the pass and for the second time in the game, Carolina made the most of a good field position.
Funchess and Henry exchange touchdowns
Newton threw his first and only touchdown when he found Funchess, who caught the ball on the turn, in the end zone.
Gano extended the lead with a 44-yard and 45-yard field goals before the Chargers came to life and managed to score a touchdown just before half-time.
The drive was set up when Terrance Williams hauled in a 45-yard reception and Rivers threw to Henry for a nine-yard touchdown reception.
Gano and Josh Lambo exchanged field goals before San Diego managed to reduce arrears once more midway through the third quarter.
Inman gives San Diego glimmer of hope
Rivers, who was under pressure, threw out wide to Inman, who caught the ball and caught the pylon with his foot for the score.
The Chargers went for the two-point conversion, but Rivers’ pass to Antonio Gates at the back of the end zone was batted down and incomplete.
Shaq Thompson undercut the route and picked off Rivers at the beginning of the fourth, but the visitors thought they made a game-changing play soon after.
Safety forced and Carolina close out game
Trovon Reed intercepted Newton’s pass and returned it for a 100-yard touchdown, however, the play was brought back to the three-yard line after review and the Chargers looked deflated.
Rivers’ back was against the wall, and Carolina put the final nail in San Diego’s coffin when Mario Addison pushed the quarterback out the back of the end zone for a safety.
Both sides are now 5-8 for the season, and the Chargers face the Oakland Raiders in a AFC West divisional match-up next Sunday, while the Panthers face off against the Washington Redskins on the Monday Night Football.