An own goal by D.C. United defender Daniel Woolard in the 41st minute was the difference Saturday as Toronto fought back from an early 1-0 deficit to pick up a 2-1 victory and snap an 11-game winless streak in MLS play.
"I think it was a very professional performance in the second half," said Toronto head coach Ryan Nelsen, who tasted victory in the league for the first time since March 9. "It takes a lot of character to come back, away from home as well, against a team that is a bit wounded and a bit desperate, very similar to us."
Robert Earnshaw had the other goal for Toronto (2-7-5), which snapped an 0-6-5 run with its best offensive performance of the season on the road after scoring just three times in six previous games away from BMO Field.
Former Toronto FC star Dwayne De Rosario scored from the penalty spot for last-place United (1-11-3).
D.C. opened the scoring when midfielder Nick DeLeon was fouled by Toronto defender Gale Agbossoumonde just inside the 18-yard box and De Rosario converted the ensuing penalty in the 19th minute.
Two goals from set pieces edged the visitors out in front before halftime. Earnshaw somehow won a header just outside the six-yard box from a long Steven Caldwell free kick, glancing the equalizer past goalkeeper Bill Hamid in the 30th minute.
The Welsh forward joked about a high jump background in his youth as the key to the play before breaking down how he got the better of D.C. defender Brandon McDonald, who is five inches taller.
"It's just the timing really," Earnshaw said. "The ball was good, because (Caldwell) over hit it, and it gave me a chance to get up behind (the defender)."
A set piece worked again Toronto in the 41st minute when Luis Silva's curling delivery into a mass of on-rushing bodies was glanced home by Woolard into his own goal.
A charged up D.C. team came out of the gates and nearly equalized two minutes into the second half. DeLeon pounced on a poor clearance from Caldwell at the top of his box, but Bendik made a fine save on the fiercely struck shot.
The goalkeeper was tested again by De Rosario in the 58th minute when DeLeon's cross found the Canadian international's outstretched foot, only to see Bendik deflect the effort wide.
Nelsen praised the efforts of his 24-year-old 'keeper.
"Whenever the ball went in (the box) it only looked like it was only one guy who was going to get it," said Nelsen, who began his professional career with United in 2001. "Joe's been doing that since the start, he's such a dominant personality."
While absorbing pressure in the second half, scoring chances were scarce at the other end for Toronto. The best chance fell to Silva, who pounced on a poor back pass from D.C. defender Taylor Kemp but couldn't find the target.
The missed opportunity meant another nervy finish for a defence that has conceded a goal in the last ten minutes of a game eight times this season. But the back line held firm to give Nelsen a win in his first visit to RFK Stadium as a head coach.