The Eagles trailed by eight points with 90 yards and 11 minutes, 42 seconds to go without DeSean Jackson, who had been knocked out with a concussion earlier, and without Kevin Curtis, who has missed most of this season with a knee injury.
But up stepped Jason Avant and rookie Jeremy Maclin and out went the Redskins (3-7) in regulation as the Eagles (7-4) scored 11 unanswered points to hand their NFC East rivals a 27-24 setback.
Avant, whom quarterback Donovan McNabb has come to lean on more and more in desperate situations, ignited the comeback by first delivering a 46-yard reception in which he picked up crucial extra yards by bouncing off a tackle attempt by LaRon Landry. On the next play, despite being pummeled by Landry in mid-air, he held on to a 20-yard pass from McNabb.
The sudden shift of field position shifted the momentum of this game the Eagles' way for good. They punched it into the end zone from the 1-yard line seven plays later, made good on the 2-point conversion to tie it and followed it with a strong defensive series that set up the decisive field-goal drive.
''We're a team,'' Avant said. ''If it wouldn't have been me, it would have been someone else. I just thank God for an opportunity to go out there and be able to play. It wasn't about me, it was about the team. I was just in that position at that time. Next week it may be someone else.''
Avant's teammates have been taking notes, however, and Sunday's game actually was something they've come to expect from the fourth-year player out of Michigan.
''That's his thing, those fingertip catches, those tight-rope catches, those in-traffic catches,'' center Jamaal Jackson raved. ''That's Avant.''
The game-winning drive was Maclin'' turn to shine. He caught passes of 35 and 6 yards in the series, which ended with David Akers connecting on a 32-yard field goal, his 16th in a row since missing two in a ghastly loss at Oakland on Oct. 18.
In the end, each receiver had five catches and the Eagles had another favorable result in a must-win game that enabled them to stay just one game behind division leader Dallas.
''I'm proud of the guys battling through,'' Reid said. ''"When you play these NFC East teams, especially this one here, last year we did not beat them. ... So I'm proud of the guys battling through and doing what they had to do.''
Reid and his staff put their team in early jeopardy by starting the game with an onside kick that Redskins running back Quinton Ganther was able to field at the Eagles' 49 and return to the 24. His return set the nine-point underdogs up for a 7-0 lead when quarterback Jason Campbell scored on a keeper.
''Before that [first] ay [of Washington's opening series], safety Quintin Mikell said, ''the defense got together and we said: We may or may not get this. If we don't get this, we've got to be ready to play.' I don't think we were shocked, I just think that gave them momentum right off the bat. I just think that they made some good calls, some good plays in the beginning and we just didn't start out on top, but it happens.''
''That's my responsibility,'' coach Andy Reid said, ''but I want to make sure that when we stay aggressive, we execute and come up on the right end of it. I thought we started the game decent. The second half, we have to go back and look at that.
''Offensively, I didn't think we started the second half very well. I thought the guys continued to push through and we ended up making some plays down the stretch. We need to do better on third down on both sides of the ball, but especially in getting off the field defensively.''
McNabb finished with 21 completions in 35 attempts for 260 yards. LeSean McCoy, subbing again for injured running back Brian Westbrook, picked up 76 yards on 17 carries and added a great effort to find the end zone on the 2-point conversion attempt after hauling in a shovel pass from McNabb short of the goal line.
Ravaged by injuries, the defense allowed the Redskins to convert eight times in 17 third-down attempts. However, after Washington scored to go up 24-16 early in the fourth quarter, it went 0-for-3 on third down and 0-for-1 on fourth down the rest of the way.
''Right now we're making key plays at key times in the game, which is big,'' defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said. ''I'd like it to not be so hard, but this team's got a lot of heart.
''I would say it all comes down to execution. And when you have new players playing in new positions, different positions, you have some execution situations and things you need to get worked out. ... But I give those guys credit. They battled and they battled and they battled. And I also give credit to the Redskins. They came in and had their team ready to play.''
Putting all their frustrations behind them for the final two series of the fourth quarter defined the players who make up that unit, according to safety Victor ''Macho'' Harris.
''I think that says a lot about our chemistry and our fight within us,'' he said.