So many times Sunday, the Mets appeared vulnerable, on the brink of ceding another game in the standings.
Michael Cuddyer butchered a fly ball to leftfield that led to the tying run in the seventh. Manager Terry Collins got burned for entrusting the game to rookie Hansel Robles instead of Tyler Clippard.
And for all of his dominance this season, closer Jeurys Familia sweated out a tense ninth inning, allowing the tying run to stand just 90 feet away.
But by hanging on for a 5-4 victory over the Red Sox, the Mets exhibited their tendency to rebound, a valuable trait should they reach the playoffs for the first time since 2006.
"This was a big game for us," Collins said after the Mets maintained their 51/2-game lead over the Nationals. "We've been flat the last couple of nights. To come out today, tremendous crowd support today, fans' support, it was a good win for us."
After returning to Citi Field on a seven-game winning streak, the Mets dropped consecutive games to the last-place Red Sox, who nearly made it a clean sweep. But a half-inning after Cuddyer let the tying run score on his misplay in leftfield, he knocked in the winning run with a clutch single.
Daniel Murphy came home after getting himself into scoring position with a surprise steal of second, which Collins called "the biggest play of the game."
"That was a huge moment," Cuddyer said of Murphy, who had stolen only one base all season. "Obviously picked the right time to go. Sneak attack. Nobody even covered. That was big."
Clippard worked 1 1/3 scoreless innings, bailing out Robles in the seventh before turning it over to Familia, who stranded the tying run at third in the ninth.
"You never want to get swept," Clippard said. "But we're playing good, we knew that, and we proved it today."
The Mets twice let leads slip away. David Ortiz erased a 1-0 deficit in the sixth, blasting a two-run homer off Noah Syndergaard. And after the Mets went ahead 4-2 on Juan Uribe's two-run double and Anthony Recker's RBI single in the sixth, the Red Sox clawed back again.
With Syndergaard still on the mound in the seventh, Jackie Bradley Jr.'s ground-rule double made it 4-3. He stole third and scored on Mookie Betts' looping hit down the leftfield line.
Initially late to react, Cuddyer compounded his mistake by overrunning the ball after it hit the ground. He then fired it over the head of David Wright, who had gone out to shallow left in pursuit of the bloop hit before trying to scramble back toward the uncovered base. Betts got a late break out of the box but then never stopped running on what was scored a triple.
Clippard relieved Robles and struck out Pablo Sandoval to keep the score tied at 4. But it didn't stay that way long.
After forcing Wright for the second out, Murphy made a bold decision to run on Heath Hembree. "I was watching him warm up and he seemed he might be a little bit slow to the plate," he said. "Sometimes relievers will come in and the first one, they'll just want to execute the pitch. Then they'll quicken up."
Murphy's timing proved impeccable, as he ran on the first pitch and put himself in position to score. Cuddyer then gained some redemption, as his third hit of the game proved to be the biggest. "To be a good team, you have to do that," said Cuddyer, hitting .375 since returning from a knee injury. "You have to have a short memory, and you have to be able to rebound."