Dorsal closure is a tissue-modeling process in the developing Drosophila embryo during which an epidermal opening is closed. It begins with the appearance of a supracellular actin cable that surrounds the opening and provides a contractile force. Amnioserosa cells that fill the opening produce an additional critical force pulling on the surrounding epidermal tissue. We show that this force is not gradual but pulsed and occurs long before dorsal closure starts. Quantitative analysis, combined with laser cutting experiments and simulations, reveals that tension-based dynamics and cell coupling control the force pulses. These constitutively pull the surrounding epidermal tissue dorsally, but the displacement is initially transient. It is translated into dorsal-ward movement only with the help of the actin cable, which acts like a ratchet, counteracting ventral-ward epidermis relaxation after force pulses. Our work uncovers a sophisticated mechanism of cooperative force generation between two major forces driving morphogenesis.