For 71 games, the Diamondbacks treated the .500 mark like a blonde who looks good from a distance but, upon closer inspection, isn't worth approaching.
But with a core of hungry young players driving the club's most spirited run of the season, Arizona finally got up the nerve.
Alex Cintron's solo home run to right field capped an improbable, two-run ninth inning that lifted the Diamondbacks to a 6-5 win over Cincinnati before 34,842 fans Friday at Bank One Ballpark.
The walk-off homer was the first of Cintron's life and earned a beer bath from his jubilant teammates. It was Arizona's first walk-off victory of the season and its first since Erubiel Durazo beat the Marlins on Aug. 9, 2002.
The win pulled Arizona even at 36-36, seven games behind San Francisco and Los Angeles in the National League West and in sole possession of third place for the first time since it was 1-2 on April 2.
Arizona, which has won three straight overall and 12 straight against the Reds, has not been this close to first place since May 26.
"A lot of young guys like myself have come in here hungry to play and we're doing a great job," Cintron said. "We're ready for Randy (Johnson) and Curt Schilling to come back in here and I think we're going to be in the race now with the way we're playing."
In a season full of injuries and bad breaks, Arizona finally got one in its favor when Tony Womack led off the ninth with a walk — his first in 34 at-bats. Reds reliever Scott Williamson had not allowed a run in his last nine appearances while converting eight straight save chances.
But Williamson's pickoff attempt sailed into the right field foul territory, allowing Womack to leg his way to third. Williamson then tossed a wild pitch, scoring Womack and setting up Cintron's heroics.
"That's the attitude that we've been looking for all season. It's the attitude we had in 2001, it's the attitude we had last year," said Arizona manager Bob Brenly, whose team has now come back from a deficit of three or more to win five times already this year. "The game's never over as long as we have outs left. Tonight was the perfect example of that."
Arizona got another iffy outing from No. 3 starter Elmer Dessens, who lasted just five innings, allowing six hits and three runs, all courtesy of former D-Back Jose Guillen.
Guillen hit a two-out, two-run shot 448 feet into the pavilion in left center field to stake Cincinnati to a 2-0 lead in the third inning.
He added an RBI double in the fifth to make it 3-0 and double his career RBI total against Arizona.
"Jose Guillen is just one of the hottest hitters in baseball right now," Brenly said.
The Diamondbacks took Dessens off the hook with a three-run fifth against Cincinnati reliever-turned-starter Danny Graves.
Robby Hammock led off the inning by drilling a 1-0 pitch over the wall in left and Carlos Baerga added a pinch-hit, RBI groundout before Womack knotted the score with another home run.
Arizona reliever Oscar Villarreal, making his 39th appearance of the season, could not hold the lead. Austin Kearns led off the Reds' sixth with a single. Villarreal hit Jason LaRue one out later and allowed Reggie Taylor's single to load the bases.
Pinch-hitting for Juan Castro, Ken Griffey Jr. lofted a sacrifice fly to plate the go-ahead run and Sean Casey added an RBI single in the seventh to give the Reds a 5-3 lead.
Luis Gonzalez's RBI double in the seventh cut the gap to 5-4.