The nucleotidyl-transfer reaction coupled with the conformational transitions in DNA polymerases is critical for maintaining the fidelity and efficiency of DNA synthesis. We examine here the possible reaction pathways of a Y-family DNA polymerase, Sulfolobus solfataricus DNA polymerase IV (Dpo4), for the correct insertion of dCTP opposite 8-oxoguanine using the quantum mechanics/molecular mechanics (QM/MM) approach, both from a chemistry-competent state and a crystal closed state. The latter examination is important for understanding pre-chemistry barriers to interpret the entire enzyme mechanism, since the crystal closed state is not an ideal state for initiating the chemical reaction. The most favorable reaction path involves initial deprotonation of O3'H via two bridging water molecules to O1A, overcoming an overall potential energy barrier of approximately 20.0 kcal/mol. The proton on O1A-P(alpha) then migrates to the gamma-phosphate oxygen of the incoming nucleotide as O3' attacks P(alpha), and the P(alpha)-O3A bond breaks. The other possible pathway in which the O3'H proton is transferred directly to O1A on P(alpha) has an overall energy barrier of 25.0 kcal/mol. In both reaction paths, the rate-limiting step is the initial deprotonation, and the trigonal-bipyramidal configuration for P(alpha) occurs during the concerted bond formation (O3'-P(alpha)) and breaking (P(alpha)-O3A), indicating the associative nature of the chemical reaction. In contrast, the Dpo4/DNA complex with an imperfect active-site geometry corresponding to the crystal state must overcome a much higher activation energy barrier (29.0 kcal/mol) to achieve a tightly organized site due to hindered O3'H deprotonation stemming from larger distances and distorted conformation of the proton acceptors. This significant difference demonstrates that the pre-chemistry reorganization in Dpo4 costs approximately 4.0 to 9.0 kcal/mol depending on the primer terminus environment. Compared to the higher fidelity DNA polymerase beta from the X-family, Dpo4 has a higher chemical reaction barrier (20.0 vs 15.0 kcal/mol) due to the more solvent-exposed active site.